What About Child Support Payments When My Ex is Unemployed?

Unfortunately, this is often a problem at one time or another in most child support cases. Recently, it has been even more common and problematic given the state of the economy, the high unemployment rate, and the years-long recession.  But just because one parent is unemployed doesn’t obviate the child support obligation. It’s a child’s right to receive economic support from a parent, and the courts will view unemployment of the non-custodial parent with a skeptical eye.

The first information the courts will look at when a parent is unemployed and not paying child support is the age of the child and the custody arrangement. If the parent is caring for a child of the parties, and that child is under two years of age, than the court will enter “0″ in the child support calculations for that parent’s income.  In addition, if the court concludes that the parent is actually and reasonably unable to work for reasons beyond that parent’s control, than the court will likely enter “0″ for that parent’s income.

But if the parent is not caring for a child of the parties who is under two years of age, and if the parent is able to work, then the court may very well attribute income to that parent even if he or she isn’t actually working.  In other words, if the parent is unemployed but is actually able to work, then the court may likely determine the amount of income that he or she is reasonably able to make and enter that amount into the income field of the child support formula.  The amount may be minimum wage, or it may be something higher.  Whatever the amount is, the amount is called an imputed amount.  It is imputed because the court recognizes that the parent isn’t actually earning that amount but is merely ABLE to earn it.

The parent to whom the court imputes an income will have to pay child support in the amount determined by the formula into which the imputed income was entered, even if that parent lacks actual income.  If the parent does not pay the child support amount, than a child support arrearage will accumulate which the parent will have to pay at a later time.

So the bottom line is that if you voluntarily impoverish yourself because you don’t believe the child support award was fair (even though it’s a mathematical calculation), or you’re discouraged by the job market and stop trying to earn a living, the courts will determine how much income you should be earning even if you’re not doing so. When you have children it’s your responsibility to care for them and that fact doesn’t change no matter how bad the economy is at the time. If you can work then you must work to support your kids.


About patrickcrawfordlaw
Welcome to the Law Office of Patrick Crawford. My practice focuses on providing experienced and high quality legal services in the area of family law, including cases involving divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, adoption, and domestic violence. My office is located in Annapolis, Maryland, and I handle many of my cases in the courts of Anne Arundel County. In addition, I handle matters in the courts of Howard County, Baltimore County, Prince George's County, and throughout Maryland. My practice is small, therefore, I can provide highly attentive and personalized services to my clients. Client satisfaction is my highest priority. Please contact me at (410) 216-7905 to arrange a free consultation

2 Responses to What About Child Support Payments When My Ex is Unemployed?

  1. Dave says:

    This is all well and good but only addresses half of the issue. What about if the one receiving CS becomes unemployed?

    Does that force a recalculation and what would be the impact of the recalculation?

    Wish the legal community would address every issue from both sides and not just the one they prefer to represent (by perception if not reality).

    • Unemployment will not “force” a recalculation. But it will provide an occasion for the unemployed parent to file an immediate request to modify child support if he/she so chooses. In such a recalculation, the court will likely recalculate child support using the parent’s new income, even if drastically reduced.

      However, if the court finds that the person could be making more money or is making an unreasonably slow effort to become re-employed, it may find that the parent is “voluntarily impoverished” and impute to him income that he could be making. Any unemployed parent should do all he/she can possibly do to re-obtain employment as soon as possible.

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