News of the federal government shutdown is making daily headlines with no end in sight. So what happens to a federal worker’s obligation to pay child support when they aren’t receiving their federal paycheck? The simple answer is that the child must still be supported, even when the person paying support is not being paid. Child support is intended to help pay for basic needs, including food, clothing, housing, healthcare, daycare, and educational expenses for the child. However, child support isn’t intended to be a punitive measure or to leave one parent destitute, especially in the face of sudden, unexpected financial hardship such as the government shutdown. The law does provide two different processes to adjust a child support order when dictated by a significant change in finances, but neither process may be appropriate when the change in income is temporary, so the length of the government shutdown is important.
Processes of Child Support Payment Changes
Washington law provides two different processes through which child support payment amounts can be changed: adjustment, and modification. To pursue the process of adjustment you must typically wait at least 24 months (two years) since the last child support order or adjustment was made. The adjustment process can be relatively fast, as it doesn't need to go to trial. Your attorney will file a motion before the family court showing that your income has changed, and a family law commissioner will review the situation, often within a matter of weeks. Alternatively, the child support modification process may be pursued at any time, but the process takes much more time and requires a substantial change in circumstances. It can take months.
What Happens If Child Support Is Not Paid During Government Shutdown
So what could happen if child support is not paid during an extended shutdown? Washington State can take serious action against those with a child support arrearage including placing liens on their personal property, taking their tax refund, suspending their driver’s license, reducing their credit score or placing a hold on their right to a obtain a passport. If you are a government employee who has lost their income during this shutdown and are paying your child support through DCS, you should contact the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services child support division and let them know about your situation.
Washington Family Law Attorney Can Help
If you are missing child support payments due to the government shutdown, or any change in employment, and need to know your legal rights and obligations, contact the lawyers at Molly B. Kenny, LLC, for advice and action to resolve your situation.