Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 8, 2020

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If your income has dropped dramatically and you are no longer able to make your child support payments, you have two options: you can explain the situation to the custodial parent and ask them to agree to a temporary or permanent change in your child support payments or you can petition the court and request that they make a change in the child support order despite the objections of the other parent.

If you have the consent of both parents to the change in child support payments, the process for changing your child support obligation is generally going to be fairly simple. You will simply petition the court, let them know both parents consented and the court will approve the alteration as long as there is no compelling reason for it not to do so. 

Disagreements Over a Change in Child Support Payments

If there is disagreement about whether the child support order should be changed, then things become a bit more complicated. In such cases, you will need to show the court that there has been a material change in circumstances that necessitates making a change in child support payments. Essentially, this means you have the burden of proving that something has happened since the first order of child support was issued that is significant enough that the court should reconsider their application of the state’s child support formula.

A significant drop in income may be an example of just such a situation. Provided that this has altered your ability to pay and the court is convinced that it is no longer appropriate to require the same support obligations, they will adjust those obligations down to meet with your current salary level. This may be a temporary change until your income rises again, or it may be set on a more permanent level (in which case, the other parent would have to petition for a change if you got a high paying job again).

Usually, as long as you can prove the drop in income materially changed your circumstances, you shouldn’t have a problem getting your child support order changed. However, there are some limited cases where courts have decided that parents are willfully refusing to work to avoid child support payments, or that the parent has willfully reduced his or her income in order to avoid the obligation to pay.  In such cases the court may not be willing to work with you on a change. 

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Getting Help

To get help filing your petition for a change with the court or for other assistance in dealing with child support issues, you should contact an experienced child support attorney in your local area.