Can I Win a Child Support Modification Case If I Become Unemployed?

parent struggling about child support after being fired

An order to pay child support payments is not meant to be a punishment after a divorce. Any substantial change in your financial circumstances – such as losing your job – can justify petitioning the court to modify your child support order.

If you are paying child support according to the terms of a separation agreement that the court ordered, then you must prove to the judge’s satisfaction that there has been a substantial change in your circumstances to merit a modification of the court order.

Our child support attorneys at Charles R. Ullman & Associates help parents seek modifications of child support payments when a parent’s or child’s circumstances change. If you pay child support and have lost your job, we can help you argue that the terms of the agreement are no longer appropriate, given your circumstances. Contact us today for assistance.

Understanding Child Support

In most cases, the father and mother of an underage child share primary legal responsibility for supporting the child. In a divorce, often one parent will assume physical custody of the child – meaning the child lives with them – and the other will uphold their responsibility for the child in part by paying child support payments.

Whether by mutual agreement of the divorcing parents or by court order, North Carolina law says the amount of child support paid should be enough to meet the reasonable needs of the child for their health, education, and maintenance.

When a judge sets the amount of child support payments, North Carolina law requires that he or she consider each parent’s income and ability to provide, including the following:

  • Assets and debts
  • Earnings
  • Health, education, employment, or employment prospects
  • Accustomed standard of living, as well as the child’s
  • Prior contributions toward childcare and homemaking
  • And other facts of the particular case.

A judge is expected to refer to child support guidelines established by the Conference of Chief District Court Judges, which use a formula that takes into account certain variables. The most significant variables are each parent’s income, daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, and the living arrangements of the child.

Though there are presumptive guidelines for setting child support, either parent may present evidence and testimony to persuade the judge of the needs of the child and the relative ability of each parent to provide support, and the judge may vary from the guidelines if appropriate. In other words, a parent can ask a judge for a specific amount of child support and show why it is necessary and why they believe the other parent can pay it.

Unemployment and Child Support Payments

If a judge has set the amount of child support you pay, it can’t be changed unless you prove to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A significant involuntary decrease in a parent’s income is considered a substantial change. But child support payments will not automatically be reduced if you lose your job.

If you lose your job and need to reduce your child support payments, you must petition the court to change your child support order or your separation agreement. In the meantime, you need to keep making child support payments. You will be legally obligated to make any payments that come due before the modification goes through.

But if you quit your job, take a lower-paying job, or otherwise reduce your income by choice, this reduction in income is not a basis on its own for changing your child support obligation. You would still need to petition the court.

You cannot have child support obligations discharged by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 personal bankruptcy. Nor can you reduce child support payments because your financial responsibility for another child not covered by the support order has increased.

How to Win a Child Support Modification Case

Our seasoned family law attorney can help you file a Motion and Notice of Hearing for Modification of Support Order.

We can help you identify and gather the financial information the judge will need to determine the amount of child support you can pay under the state’s child support guidelines. You should keep a copy of your termination notice, any information that shows your current gross income from any source (unemployment insurance, Social Security or other retirement benefits, Veterans’ benefits). You’ll also need documentation of the cost of health insurance for your children, work-related childcare costs, and any extraordinary expenses your child requires.

The court will set a hearing date and serve a copy of the motion on your ex-spouse.

When the judge holds a hearing on the motion to modify, your Raleigh child support attorney from Charles R. Ullman & Associates will speak on your behalf to justify your request to modify the child support order and present supporting documents and other evidence.

The judge will determine how your unemployment impacts the current child support order and your ability to make support payments. You can expect the judge to admonish you to continue looking for a new job. You also should expect that your spouse will petition to reinstate appropriate child support payments when you are employed again.

Contact Our Trusted Child Support Lawyers in Raleigh

Parents have financial responsibility for their underage children after a divorce, but child support orders must be based on their ability to pay. If you have lost your job and can’t keep up with your child support obligations in the Raleigh area of North Carolina, Charles R. Ullman & Associates can help you seek a modification of your child support order.

We are experienced and compassionate attorneys who focus solely on divorce and family law issues and are well-respected by Wake County’s lawyers and family law judges. You can trust us to help you through the legal process of seeking a modification of your child support order. Contact us today at (919) 829-1006 or online to schedule a consultation.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.