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Dealing with child support obligations after a job loss

A job loss is one of the most stressful events that people can experience. Often, people lose their jobs through no fault of their own. It can be devastating nonetheless -- emotionally and financially.

Unless you're getting a generous severance package, you're going to start feeling that financial pain almost immediately. If you're paying child and/or spousal support, it's essential to take some action right away so that you aren't in violation of the support agreement or court order.

It's essential to talk with your attorney and to notify your ex. You can seek a temporary modification of your support payments until you get another job. It's essential that this is done through the courts. Even if you and your ex work out a modification on your own without a judge having to weigh in, it needs to be approved by the court. Otherwise, you could find yourself legally responsible for back payments and even facing criminal charges.

If you're asking a judge for a modification due to a job loss, be prepared to list any remaining sources of income. For example, if you can't work because you were injured on the job, you may be receiving workers' compensation as well as disability benefits. If you are getting unemployment benefits, you'll need to disclose those. If you were part of a mass layoff and your employer is paying your salary for several months more or longer, you likely won't be able to get a modification until that runs out (if you don't get another job in the meantime).

Don't just stop making support payments while you're seeking a modification unless you've gotten authorization to do so by the court -- even if your ex is agreeable to it. Child support obligations, in particular, are taken very seriously by the courts. They're intended for the care of your children -- not for your co-parent.

Your attorney can provide valuable guidance based on your specific situation and help you make the case for a modification. The sooner you get them involved, the sooner you can start working to get that needed modification until you're back on your feet financially.

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