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I Lost My Job. What Do I Do if I Can’t Pay My Court Ordered Child Support?

By: Amy Hoch Hogenson

Courts include child support orders as part of most cases involving child custody. In these judgments, courts usually order monthly payments from one parent to the other. Child support is due typically on the 1st or 15th of the month.

Sometimes things happen that can impact the ability to pay child support. Those can include the loss of a job, change in medical condition, injury, or, as we now know, a pandemic causing significant economic shutdown and stalling of business.

We know that millions of claims for unemployment have been made. Even though your job is impacted by Covid-19, the judgment for child support remains in place as does the obligation to pay it monthly.

If a change in circumstances has occurred that is both “substantial” (more than, for example, a small increase or decrease in income) and “continuing” (going on for a long period of time), you can seek relief. For example, a job loss would be substantial, but courts expect people to find new jobs, so the change is likely not continuing. To obtain relief from the obligation, you must file a formal request with the court to change the terms of support, which could include a reduction of the amount. Those formal requests are called “motions to modify.”

Missouri has no self help remedy. You cannot decide on your own to stop paying, regardless of your circumstances. To do so would violate the judgment and potentially set you up for a contempt of court citation. If child support is not paid, interest will accrue at the rate of 1 percent per month on each overdue payment, or 12 percent per year per payment. So if you are ordered to pay $500 per month and you miss six months of payments, you will owe $3,000 in support and $75 in interest. After a year, you would owe $6,000 in support and $330 in interest. Child support payments cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Contact one of the family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal to discuss your options and help you determine the best course of action.

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Amy Hoch Hogenson

Amy Hoch Hogenson

St. Louis attorney Amy Hoch Hogenson is a member of the Firm’s Family Law department whose areas of practice include divorce, child custody and paternity matters. A graduate of St. Louis University School of Law, Ms. Hoch Hogenson served as Managing Editor of the St. Louis University Public Law Review and Captain of the Jessup International Moot Court team.