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What happens if I can no longer pay child support?

Palm Coast, FL |

There are rumors of a big round of layoffs coming up and my company, and I'm worried what will happen if I can no longer afford to make child payments. Can they take away my visitation rights?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. NO! Child support and visitation are completely separate issues. If you have a significant change in your income you should IMMEDIATELY file with the court for a modification of your child support obligation. Speak with a local attorney as soon as possible to review all your rights, options and obligations so you can make good decisions going forward. Good luck!

    Ms. Brown may be reached at 718-878-6886 during regular business hours, or anytime by email at: All of Ms. Brown’s responses to questions posted on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are provided for educational purposes of the public, not any specific individual, and her response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Brown is licensed to practice law in New York. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.

  2. Child support and visitation are unrelated. Immediately after you have a significant change in pay, you should get a lawyer to help you file a motion for modification of child support.

    The contents of this answer should be considered friendly advice, not legal advice (I'm a pretty friendly guy), and the answer should not be construed to constitute an attorney-client relationship. If you'd like actual legal advice, call me for a free consultation at 813-635-0222. Also, if you liked this answer as much as my big ego thinks you did, be sure to click the thumbs-up button!

  3. Avvo Email

    Your contact schedule is not dependent upon your child support payments.
    You must immediately file a petition to modify and reduce your child
    support obligation as soon as you are laid off. An involuntary reduction
    in income is a ground for reduction but the court will not have the
    authority to reduce your obligation retroactively beyond the date you file
    the petition seeking a reduction. Also, you must seek an early hearing on
    your petition because you are required to pay the current support until the
    court enters an order allowing you to reduce it. You should consult an
    attorney about this while you still have an income.


  4. If you have been "court ordered" to pay child support, not paying can result in a "contempt of court" charge. It would be a "civil" (as opposed to "criminal") contempt of court - sometimes also referred to as "indirect" contempt of court. The goal of civil contempt to to coerce the contemptor into compliance. The Judge cannot "punish" for indirect or civil contempt. The "key to the jail is put into the contemptnor's hands" - in other words you can leave any time you want ... as soon as you comply with the Court's order. Jail, of course, is the most severe form of coercment. In many cases a Judge will order additional support, order an unemployed parent to bring the court job applications showing an effort to find work etc. There are, however, many judges that do not seem to understand the difference between civil and criminal contempt. As a result, they do punish the person ... and it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Nonetheless, if you stop paying when the court has ordered you to do so the standard is: 1) There is a court order; 2) You disobeyed the order; 3) Your disobedience was willful. Thus, if you cannot pay child support you cannot be adjudicated in contempt. If that is the case, you should immediately seek a reduction in your court ordered support through the appropriate court filing.

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