As the economy has worsened over the last few years, more and more people are losing their jobs. Facing the daily struggle of trying to make ends meet while you are unemployed can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for sure. Many individuals who have faced prolonged unemployment turn to bankruptcy after they are unable to hang on any longer. However, what about individuals who are paying court-ordered child support who subsequently lose their jobs? Can they just stop paying their child support? Can their child support obligation be discharged in a bankruptcy?
Child support obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, if you lose your job, you have other options to reduce the amount of child support you pay each month. If you have lost your job involuntarily, you may seek to modify your current child support obligation by filing an action to do so in Superior Court. Even if you discuss your unemployment situation with the other parent, and the other parent agrees to the modification, the Court must approve of the changes and issue an Order for the new amount. The new amount will not be considered an official modification unless the Court approves it. Therefore, if you fail to obtain Court approval for the change, the other parent could come after you later for failure to pay the original court ordered amount.
Georgia law requires a parent to show a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or the needs of the children in order to modify a child support order. However, the law specifically provides that child support may be modified due to the involuntary loss of employment. Generally speaking, a child support order cannot be modified until two years have passed from the date of the original child support order or from the last modification order. However, involuntary unemployment is one of three exceptions to that rule, and a modification action based on involuntary loss of employment may be filed sooner.
If you are currently court ordered to pay child support and have experienced an involuntary job loss, you should contact an attorney sooner rather than later. Under Georgia law, you remain responsible to pay your court-ordered child support amount until the other parent has been served with your petition to modify child support. Remember, even if the other parent has verbally agreed to a downward modification of the child support amount, you must have court approval of the change.