Being laid off from a job is difficult: emotionally, physically, and financially. It can be stressful to manage your budget, apply for assistance, or search for other jobs. If you have children, you have additional stressors including child support. It is important to understand your obligations and requirements. What happens when you no longer have the ability to pay child support due to a lay off?

Child support is a court-determined amount paid to the custodial parent to help with the care and expenses of the joint child. The income of both parties is used to determine the specific amount. Once a court has ordered child support, it will not stop if you lose your job. Failure to pay pursuant to your court order can have serious consequences. You must formally seek a modification of your child support order if you wish to amend your payments.


If you have been laid off from a job, it is important to contact your caseworker at your local child support office. Child support does not stop because of unemployment. However, once terminated, your automatic income withdraw will cease. It then becomes your responsibility to update the child support office and make payment directly to them.

If your termination was involuntary, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits through the state. If approved, your child support obligation will be automatically deducted from your weekly benefits pursuant to your child support order. The amount deducted each week cannot exceed 65% of your total benefit under the law.

Failure to Pay

Failure to pay child support regardless of the reason can have harsh consequences. Past due child support payments are called “arrears.” Your past due amounts may also accrue interest making it more difficult to pay over time.  Possible penalties for failure to pay child support may include:

  • Interception of federal and state tax returns
  • Suspension of licensing (Driver’s, occupational, and recreational)
  • Seizure of assets
  • Credit bureau reporting
  • Criminal prosecution
  • Jail time
  • Denial of passport

It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible if you cannot make your child support payments. Failure to pay can have serious impacts and it is important to fully understand all the options available to you, including a modification of your child support order.

Modification of a Child Support Order

It is unlikely that a court will completely suspend your child support obligation due to a lay off. However, your existing order may be eligible for modification because of your situation. To modify your existing child support order, you must show a substantial increase or decrease in the gross income of a party. Generally, the two requirements to modify an existing order are:

  • At least a $75 difference between the existing and new child support order; and
  • At least a 20% difference between the existing and new child support order.

Courts will be looking for evidence to show that your income has changed and will take your unemployment benefits into account.

Child support matters can be difficult, especially in circumstances of unemployment. You need a qualified attorney you can trust by your side. Contact our office today for an initial consultation. Let our legal team assist you though this difficult time. Call our office at (763) 323-6555 or submit an online inquiry request through our website. We are here to help.

Photo of Cynthia J. Brown Cynthia J. Brown

Cynthia Brown is a founding partner with the Brown Law Offices, P.A. She is an honors graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. Cynthia was admitted to practice in 1998.

After graduating from law school, Cynthia served…

Cynthia Brown is a founding partner with the Brown Law Offices, P.A. She is an honors graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. Cynthia was admitted to practice in 1998.

After graduating from law school, Cynthia served as the law clerk to the Honorable Timothy R. Bloomquist, retired Chief Judge of Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District. Upon completing her clerkship, Cynthia practiced with a well-known firm in Cambridge, Minnesota. She founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003.

Cynthia has handled a wide variety of family law matters throughout Minnesota, including divorce, custody, child protective services, orders for protection and harassment restraining orders.

Early in her career, Cynthia served as a prosecutor, public defender and criminal investigator. In addition to her family practice, Cynthia routinely represents clients facing criminal charges such as DWI, assault, theft and criminal sexual misconduct.

Cynthia founded the Amigos de Guatemala Foundation in 2007. She is a former Board Member and President of the Foundation.

When she is not practicing law, Cynthia enjoys scrap-booking, soap-making, ATV riding and spending time with family.

Areas of Practice
  • Divorce
  • Custody
  • Child Protective Services
  • Restraining Orders
  • Criminal Defense
  • Estate Planning
Bar Admission
  • Minnesota State Bar, 1998
  • William Mitchell College of Law, 1998
  • University of South Dakota, 1995
Joined Firm
  • 2003
Professional Associations & Activities
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Presenter, Various CLE Courses
  • Panel Attorney, Anoka County County Family Law Clinic
  • Monthly Columnist, Minnesota Lawyer Newspaper
  • Author, Family Law Forum
  • Author, Divorce Magazine