Help! Child Support Is Building Up And I Can't Afford To Pay It

Posted on: 9 November 2015


If you are not able to keep up with your child support payments, all is not lost. There are several things you can do but you do need to take action quickly so that you won't get buried under the growing debt.

Getting the Child Support Order modified

If your and/or your ex's circumstances have changed significantly, you may be able to get the child support order modified. The thing is, you shouldn't delay doing this because you can't get a modification that will take effect retroactively; it will only affect your future payments.

Some things that would persuade a judge to modify your order are:

  • You lost your job or your hours have been reduced -- due to no fault of your own -- and you have been looking for additional work, but have not been successful so far.
  • Your ex remarried and their new spouse is paying for their housing and utilities, thus lightening the expense of caring for your children. (You should note that the new spouse is not legally responsible for paying support for your children, however.) Or your ex's income has increased for some other reason, such as a job promotion.
  • You have become disabled and can no longer work. This will not completely let you off the hook, but if you are now receiving disability payments, the support requirement could be adjusted to an amount you could reasonably pay.
  • You are now taking care of your children for longer periods of time and more often, so the balance of needs and care has shifted.
  • Your child's needs have been reduced in some way. Perhaps they were attending a private school that required tuition but they now attend a public school.

Clearing Off Other debts to Catch up with Child Support

If you have a lot of consumer debt along with your child support, you will need to tackle this so you can pay your child support more easily. You could try non-profit consumer counseling first (make sure the organization is legitimate) and ask for a debt management plan or DMP.

To create the DMP, a credit counselor will talk to each of your creditors to get them to agree to lower their monthly payments, interest rates, and perhaps even the balances. The counselor will help you prepare a budget, and have you pay a lump sum payment every month that will be split up and some of it go to each creditor. As time goes on, some balances will be paid off and more of your payment will go to the larger debts. Eventually, all those debts will be paid off and you will be off the program.

If you can't get your support payments modified, and credit counseling is not helpful for whatever reason, you may have to consider bankruptcy. Child support payments are not dischargeable, but you would be able to get non-priority, non-secured debts (primarily consumer debts that did not require collateral) cleared away, and also get necessary payments reaffirmed and lowered. 

If any of your creditors (aside from state child support collection agencies) are threatening garnishments, repossessions, or foreclosures, you can get those actions stopped, at least temporarily. It would also buy you some time to get caught up on some necessary payments on your car or home. 

Getting Legal Advice

For advice on your state's laws and specialized assistance that is tailored to your situation, you will want to consult an attorney that specializes in debt and child support issues such as garnishments and bankruptcy. They can help you come up with a solution you can live with.