Unemployed and Unable to Pay Child Support: Now What?

The country is still reeling from the economic toll of the shutdowns that many states across the country implemented to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this has caused alarming numbers of people to lose their jobs and other means of income, including people who have been ordered to pay child support. This is a problem and one that does not seem to be going away anytime soon. As the pandemic continues to spread, so too does the uncertainty around it. No one knows when it will end or when we will be able to resume our normal lives. For the unemployed, no one knows when job security will return to industries that have been hit especially hard.

As if that was not bad enough, trying to get unemployment compensation is easier said than done and many claims are for amounts much lower than one would typically earn through a regular job. In North Carolina, unemployment claims are still alarmingly high, and while you are stuck waiting for your claim to be approved or for money to appear in your account, your bills will continue to pile up. Even when unemployment clears, the amount is often so low that many people struggle to pay their basic bills, like electric, mortgage/ rent, and groceries. Few unemployed people have enough left over to cover child support payments.

So, where does this leave people who are suddenly unemployed or underemployed and have to pay child support?

You Cannot Afford Child Support Payments: What can You do?

If you recently found yourself unemployed because of COVID-19, you might be wondering how you are going to make your child support payments. Given the unprecedented times we are living in, however, many judges in North Carolina may opt against holding you in contempt if you are unable to make your payments. After all, unemployment is often unexpected. Many judges will likely be understanding and will recognize your hardship. That said, you should try to make some sort of good faith payment, even if it is just a partial payment.

If you cannot afford to make your full child support payments each month because you are unemployed or underemployed, you should try to work out a payment plan or something so your ex-partner still receives something each month. If you have a tight budget, consider looking it over to see what you can do without. If you have several streaming services, for example, maybe it is time to cut it down to one service. Perhaps order out less often and cancel some subscription services you have. These are luxuries. When you have court-ordered child support payments to make, you should try your best to at least make partial payments, even when you are unemployed.

Can I File for Contempt for Child Support Nonpayment?

What happens if you are the person waiting for child support payments to arrive? Well, if your ex-partner suddenly finds themselves unemployed because of COVID-19, they may have trouble making their court-ordered payments. What can you do if this is the case? Can you file for contempt?

Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and is requiring flexibility in almost every aspect of society, including in the courts. Because of the economic damage caused by the pandemic and the fact that no one plans on being unemployed, judges are likely to be more understanding if someone is unable to make their child support payments.

If you decide to file a motion of contempt, you may quickly discover your case may not go before the court for a while. Many courts are still operating at greatly reduced capacity. A quicker option may be to directly pursue a payment arrangement with your ex-spouse. Even though full payments may be impossible at the moment, maybe the two of you can work out a plan involving partial payments. An attorney can help you work out the details of a payment plan.

Did you recently find yourself unemployed or have your wages or hours cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Does your sudden loss of income make it more difficult to make your child support payments? If this is true, contact the skilled legal team at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We have years of experience helping people like you work out arrangements and payment plans until you can get back on your feet. Call our office at 704.370.2828 or contact us here to schedule a video consultation, over the phone consultation or in-person consultation at one of our offices in Charlotte, Monroe or Mooresville North Carolina.