August 21, 2019

Child Support Changes with Increase in Job Losses

There is an obvious connection between job loss and child support payments. The rise of unemployment to over 10 percent has made it nearly impossible for many parents to make their child support payments, which is reflected in a surge in petitions for reduced payments.

4 out of 10 people who have lost their job remain unemployed for six months or more. This increase in long-term unemployment makes the situation worse. Also, men have been disproportionately laid off due to the recession’s impact on traditionally male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction. Because nearly 83 percent of custodial parents are women, men are left to pay most child support obligations.

In Highland County, Ohio, requests for support modifications nearly doubled unemployment applicationlast year as the county’s unemployment rate rose to over 16 percent when a major area employer left. According to Christine Blevins, a supervisor for the county child support enforcement agency, the nature of the requested changes also shifted. While in past years most requests came from custodial parents seeking increases, in 2009 almost all the requests came from noncustodial parents who lost their jobs and ask for payment reductions.

As people whose payments are now based on unemployment will soon lose those benefits, Blevins expects to see another wave of downward adjustments. Payments are also no longer calculated assuming that a parent could at least find a full time, minimum-wage job, as that is no longer realistic in this economy. The situation puts everyone involved in a difficult position, as the non-custodial parents struggle to pay child support and the children in need have a harder time getting the support they need.

I recommend that if your financial situation changes and you can’t meet your support payments, call your attorney or the state child support agency to start the review process. It can take months for a reduction to be granted, especially in communities that have cut back on staffing child support offices. If you cut payments without official approval, it may lead to legal problems and possibly even an arrest.