Skip to content
Set Up a Consultation Call 770-594-8309 / Text 678-522-4799

Do I Need to Pay Child Support if I Lose My Job?

This issue is more and more relevant in the current economy that is heading towards recession. Georgia law used to be draconian: NO RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT – PERIOD! (There were a few exceptions but beyond the context of this article).  

So what would happen is, someone would lose their job, have unemployment compensation or sometimes not even that, and they would file immediately to modify their child support payments. The other side would delay, drag on, and the final court hearing could be 6, 9, 12 months out. During this entire period the original amount of child support would accrue as arrears, creating awful amounts of debt that could not be forgiven. 

For example, if you owed $1500 a month in child support and couldn’t pay, and it takes 30 days to find an attorney and file for modification, plus nine months to a final ruling, that would leave $15,000 in unpaid child support in arrears. Georgia courts had no power under the law to change this, except to hear these cases faster when possible.

None too soon, the law was changed. Now, if you suffer what is termed an ‘involuntary’ loss of employment, the amount of child support that is based on income from your employment will no longer accrue, starting from when the other party is served with process. So you need to get the other parent served ASAP.  

Thereafter, you need to determine what amount of your child support obligation is from income from your employment, and start paying what remains until a final hearing with the court to modify your support.  

Also, this law can work from the date of service of process, past the court date, and all the way up until you gain new employment, to dramatically reduce your child support during the entire period of time in which you were involuntarily unemployed.

The language used in the statute is messy, and so courts do not actually know exactly what it means some of the time.  Regardless, it is the law we’ve got, it is a fairer and more equitable law, and one that should be utilized to avoid the egregious outcomes of large child support arrears that can ruin lives that were often the result before this statute went into place.

With this statute you need to act immediately, and do not act on your own, but consult an expert in the field. On the other side of the case, a party can contest the ‘involuntary’ nature of your unemployment, to try to impute income to you, and employ the usual defenses against attempts to modify child support downward.

Something else to note, also, is that the new child support law provides that a court ‘may’ award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. Thus, if your child support goes down, you are the prevailing party, which may give incentive for the other side to settle instead. It doesn’t always work out that way, as family law cases often involve a lot of emotion, as well as distrust among parties, but at least it is given as another possible outcome.

Scott Shaw is founder and principal of Shaw Law Firm PC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm has offices in Dunwoody/Sandy Springs and serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today or call us at 770-594-8309.