Child support is a top priority for most parents. But what happens when the bottom falls out and you are unable to make your payments?

As is the case with most issues, your best first move is to make contact with the custodial parent, explain the situation and try to open a dialogue between the two of you. If, say, your job has been terminated, or perhaps you are preparing to relocate to a new job, discuss the facts openly and honestly. There is a good chance you can work with the custodial parent and come to an agreement without having to modify your original agreement or appear before a judge. You will want to memorialize any temporary shift, including how and when you will pay any back-child support that begins to accumulate.

If there are uncertainties surrounding when you will be able to pick up the pieces, there are some options for addressing that. Ideally, these options will include working with the custodial parent in order to keep both your communication and visitation in place. In a best-case scenario, your children would never know of a temporary setback that either parent may face. Life happens. Even the best and carefully planned moves can backfire or fall short.

If your financial situation changes, and you are unsure of how long it will be that way, you may ask the court, via a petition, to modify your child support payments. Keep in mind, you will need to provide proof that what you say is true. If, say, you lost your job unexpectedly and ideally through no fault of your own, you will want to submit that documentation with your petition.

Also, you will need to file the petition and any supporting documentation with the same court that ordered your payments initially. Note that the court is the only entity that can change what you owe, regardless of your relationship with the other parent, payments you might have missed before, or payments that were reduced for any reason. Again, honesty counts.

Of course, for some custodial parents, depending on the noncustodial parent has been iffy at best over the years. If you’re the custodial parent and you learn that the noncustodial parent has lost his or her job or is repeating past decision-making patterns, you may wonder if there are other options.

In these instances, contacting the child support lawyer who handled your divorce and/or custody issues might be your best bet. There are options and plans of actions that can be taken if a noncustodial parent simply does not take his or her child support obligations seriously. Their wages can be garnished, their tax refunds can be rerouted and in some drastic cases, he or she can spend up to six months in jail for nonpayment.

In most cases, when a parent hits a bump in the road, it’s temporary and once the problem is resolved, the parent makes it top priority to ensure any past due child support is paid immediately and then picks up the pieces and moves forward,allowing both parents continue to make strong decisions for their children.

For more information, speak to a child support attorney today.