Child support is an obligation to your children — not to your ex-spouse. Most states have guidelines they use to determine how much support the parents should pay for their children — it is not a number arbitrarily chosen. Child support is based on income and the number of children you have and is equitable to the amount that would come out of your paycheck for the children if you were still living in the family home.
If you quit your job and do not have enough money saved up until you can find a better job, first, you may not get unemployment, and second, you won’t be able to support yourself and pay child support. The court will tell you that the children come first. When you don’t pay support, arrearages build up. If you were issued an income deduction order, the state keeps track of when and how much you pay. If you do not, your ex-spouse notifies the court that you have not been paying.
If you do not have an income deduction order and you pay your support directly to your ex-spouse, always keep receipts. In the event you do quit your job and cannot pay support, it will be your spouse’s word against yours as to how much and when you paid. Your checks or money orders should always say “For child support” and the case number on the memo field, so that you have proof of payment should your ex take you to court for non-payment.
Quitting Your Job
The courts frown upon quitting your job before you find a new job with comparable income, as many people do quit their jobs in the hopes they won’t have to pay support. A person may also take a job that pays much less than the job he just quit, in the hopes of getting child support lowered. The court knows that people do this, and will not lower the support — it will order you to obtain employment that is in line with the job you just quit, so that you can pay your obligation. If you can prove you were laid off as a result of a company-wide lay off, the courts may be more lenient, but still expect you to find a job that pays as good as the one you were just laid off from.
Before quitting your job, especially if you are quitting because of differences in opinions, be sure you have another job lined up. If you don’t, and you must quit your job, look for a job right away and keep records of where you applied. You will continue to accrue arrearages and are expected to pay those arrearages on top of your normal child support payments. If you cannot find a job, and you were laid off, approach the court to ask for a temporary modification of support. Whether it will be granted is at the court’s discretion. Always pay something toward the support of your children, because if you don’t, the courts look upon you as a “deadbeat dad,” and will treat you accordingly. The courts can impose sanctions such as revoking your driving privileges or even sentencing you to jail, in some states, for non-payment of support.