Do You Have to Pay Child Support If You Are on Unemployment?

By Jack Ori

Updated August 05, 2019

Man having headache and Financial problems


When you divorce the parent of your child, the court may order you to pay child support based on your income. You must pay your child support according to your agreement or face legal and financial consequences. If you lose your job and begin receiving unemployment, ask the court to modify your child support order.

Modification Order

If you cannot pay your required child support for any reason, including losing your job, you must go back to court and ask them to modify your child support order. You are still legally responsible for the old child support amount until the court modifies your order. Go to court as soon as possible after losing your job so that your child support payments do not get backed up.

Deduction From Unemployment Checks

The court considers unemployment benefits to be income. The child support amount may be deducted from your unemployment check each week. If your unemployment benefits are far lower than your original income, this could cause financial problems. Modifying the child support order will ensure that you pay only what you can afford.

Canceling Child Support

In most states, it is difficult to cancel child support altogether. State laws require non-custodial parents to pay a minimum amount of child support each month so that they cannot deliberately remain unemployed to avoid paying any support. However, if you have severe financial problems due to unemployment, you may petition the court to temporarily suspend your child support payments. You must be able to prove that even a minimal amount of support would be too much of a financial hardship.

Waiving Back Support

If you do not modify your child support order right away, you may end up with a bill for back child support that you cannot pay. In some states, the custodial parent can sign a waiver releasing you from liability for back child support. However, you cannot obtain such a waiver if your children are on public assistance. The court may also not accept a waiver if you did not have a good reason for delaying your request to modify your child support order.