If you lose your job, you cannot simply stop paying child support. It’s up to the court to determine whether your child support order should be adjusted based on your employment status—both in cases where you are earning more or less money.
Child Support Modification Based on a Reduction in Employment
If your income is less in the years after a child support order has been issued in Washington state, you can petition the court to review your case and lower the amount that you need to pay. However, you can only ask for a child support case review if it has been over a year since the last change in your order.
If your child support order is less than one year old, you will have to prove that there has been a substantial change in your circumstances. If it has been over two years since the last modification to your child support order, you may be able to modify the support amount without proving a substantial change in circumstances if there have been changes in one (or both) parent’s incomes or there have been changes in the way child support is calculated under Washington state law.
A substantial change may be one (or more) of the following:
- The original support order now imposes a severe financial hardship on either parent
- You have suffered a medical emergency that prevents you from working
- Your pay has changed significantly (more than 10%)
- Either parent wants to add a provision for automatic adjustments to the child support order
The Court Will Examine the Details of the Employment Change
It’s important to note that unintentional unemployment may be seen as a substantial change in circumstances, but voluntarily quitting a job will not. The court shouldn’t penalize you for a loss of employment that was beyond your control, such as getting laid off from your job, furloughed, or demoted to part-time.
However, if you quit your job because of a disagreement with your boss, were fired with valid cause, chose to stop working to go back to school, or stopped working to intentionally deprive your ex-spouse of child support, the court will not grant a modification. You will be considered “voluntarily unemployed,” and you will still be responsible for the full amount of child support ordered regardless of your ability to pay.
Increased Income May Cause Changes in Child Support
On the other hand, there are some instances where earning more money affects the amount of child support paid by one (or both) parents. For example, you might ask the court for a modification of the order due to an increase in income if:
- Your ex-spouse’s financial situation has changed since the last support order was created
- Your ex-spouse is making more money and your child’s education or childcare expenses have significantly increased in the last year
- Your child has suffered an accident and needs expensive treatment or has ongoing medical costs
- You or your ex-spouse has had another child since your child support order was created
- The last support order was created when your ex-spouse had primary custody, but you now have shared custody (or vice versa)
If you need to alter your child support agreement, you should speak with an experienced child custody and support lawyer to learn the options available to you. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we answer all of your questions and do everything we can to help you continue to provide for your children. Call us today to arrange a private consultation, or use our online contact form to have us get back to you.