When parents separate, they become individually responsible for certain aspects of caring for their children. When the courts are involved, they may require one parent to make child support payments to the other. Child support orders are put in place by the courts to ensure that a child has all of the necessary financial support to thrive. However, there may come a time where the parent can no longer afford the mandated payments or believe they are not fair. Can they be modified?
What Is Child Support?
Child support consists of court-mandated payments used to maintain a child’s standard of living and ensure that their needs are taken care of. Child support payments can be determined by the courts in two different ways. One way is through the income share method, in which the noncustodial parent pays a percentage of the estimated monthly cost for childcare as determined by an economic table. That percentage is based on the noncustodial parent’s share of both parents’ combined monthly income.
The other method is the percentage of income method. This one is simpler; the judge decides on a set percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income to be paid monthly to the custodial parent. That money is then used to cover the costs of caring for the child.
What Are Child Support Payments Used For?
Child support payments are always meant to be used for the well-being of the child in question. Some examples of the ways in which child support money can be used include:
- Basic necessities: Some custodial parents choose to use child support money to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities to their child. Child support can also be used to pay for bills that impact the child’s comfort at home, such as electricity or rent.
- Medical care: Money from child support payments can be used to help a parent pay for their child’s medical care, such as a co-payment on a primary care visit.
- Education: Some parents choose to use child support to help pay for education related expenses. These expenses include textbooks, school supplies, uniforms, or lunch money. It can also be used to pay for field trips.
- Transportation: A parent can use child support money to pay for the cost of transportation and travel for their child. This includes the costs of maintaining a vehicle, such as gas, insurance, etc. This is especially relevant when the child visits with both parents, and one lives a distance away.
- Extracurricular activities: Sometimes, payments are used to facilitate extracurricular activities for the child. This includes camps, being involved in sports, going to after school programs, and more.
At no point should child support money be used for the needs of the custodial parent that do not relate to their child. The money is intended to assist the parent in providing the necessary care to the child they share with the person making the payments.
What if I Miss Child Support Payments?
Child support payments are mandated by the courts. This means that it is necessary for a parent to make all of their child support payments, and on time. If they fail to do so, they may face penalties, some of which could be severe. The South Carolina Division of Child Support Services have several methods to collect past due child support payments, and they can impose penalties on parents who do not pay. Some of the potential penalties include:
- Taking child support payments directly out of the noncustodial parent’s paychecks
- Taking child support payments out of their disability benefits, social security benefits, or workers’ compensation payments
- Seizing the noncustodial parent’s bank accounts to make the missed payments
- Intercept a parent’s federal and state tax refunds
- Revoke the noncustodial parent’s various licenses, such as their professional or occupational licenses, if the parent is more than 60 days behind on their payments
- Revoke the noncustodial parent’s passport and driver’s license, making it difficult to travel
- Deny loans for small businesses and homes to the noncustodial parent
- Report past due child support payments to various credit bureaus, causing damage to the noncustodial parent’s credit score
- Placing liens on the noncustodial parent’s home or property, such as vehicles
The consequences for missing child support payments can be severe. If a judge decides that the noncustodial parent violated their existing child support order, they may be found in contempt of court. They could then be sentenced to up to a year in jail and required to pay an additional fee of up to $1,500.
Modifying Child Support Payments
There are options for parents who can no longer make child support payments they were able to when an order was put in place. A noncustodial parent can file a petition with the courts to have their existing child support order modified to better fit what they are able to pay. This will lead to a hearing in which the parent will be required to prove the reason they need the order to be modified. Acceptable reasons are as follows:
- Change of income: A sudden and substantial change in income may require a noncustodial parent to request a child support modification. Such a change could be caused by a reduced salary, reduced work hours, lost clients, or inability to find new employment.
- Health issues: If a noncustodial parent becomes severely ill, they may no longer be capable of working as much as they used to. Therefore, their income would be lower, as would their ability to make child support payments.
- Changing needs: The needs of a child change as they get older. For example, a child that once required daycare services may no longer need them once they reach a certain age. Child support payments can be modified to reflect those changes.
- Changes in visitation: If a noncustodial parent begins having increased visitation with their child, they may petition to have the amount of support they pay to the custodial parent lowered. This is because they are presumably spending more money on the child’s needs while spending time with them, lowering the burden on the custodial parent.
Contact Us for Help
If you have been ordered to pay child support but can no longer make your payments, contact Masella Law Firm, P.A. for legal counsel. We will review your situation and provide you with the most effective strategy for getting your payments lowered. We understand that needing to lower the payments you make may be due to hard times, which is why we treat every client with empathy while fighting tirelessly on their behalf. Contact us today at (803) 938-4952 or online to get started.