How Does a Parent's Unemployment Affect Child Support in NJ?

How Does a Parent's Unemployment Affect Child Support in NJ?

In New Jersey, a parent's unemployment does not mean that they will not be ordered to pay child support. The court will consider the reason for the parent's unemployment and could impute income to them to calculate support when they are voluntarily unemployed. If a support order is already in place, losing your job will not end your obligation to pay child support. Instead, you'll need to seek a modification from the court to have the amount changed or temporarily halted while you look for work. Here's what to know about unemployment and its impact on child support from a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC.

Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment and Child Support


When a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court will determine whether their situation is voluntary. This is because both parents are expected to contribute to the child's upbringing, and child support is ordered in the best interests of the child instead of in either parent's interest. If a parent is found to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to try to avoid child support, the court can impute income to them. The court can impute income to a parent whether it is the initial child support case or a modification hearing.

Imputing income is at the discretion of the family court judge, so the judge will hold a hearing and will want to find out why the parent is unemployed or underemployed. The court will want to figure out whether the parent has a legitimate reason for being unemployed or for earning less than they should. If the court determines the parent does not have a legitimate reason for being unemployed or underemployed, the court can impute income to them. The court can impute income based on the parent's earnings capacity, education, work history, earnings record, and other factors. It can also use data from the New Jersey Department of Labor to see what other people in the same occupation earn on average and use that information to impute income to the parent.

What if a Parent is Involuntarily Unemployed?


If a parent is unemployed through no fault of their own, the court might still impute income to them, but it isn't mandatory. The court may impute income at the state's minimum wage. Depending on the reason for the parent's unemployment, no income might be imputed at all. For example, if a parent is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of a permanent disability that leaves them unable to work, the court likely will not impute income to them.

Unemployment Benefits and Child Support


If the paying parent loses their job and is awarded unemployment benefits, the other parent can garnish the unemployment benefits payments to recover child support. If the unemployed parent is left with too little to make ends meet, they can request a modification to temporarily reduce their child support until they can find a job.

What Can a Parent Do When They Become Unemployed?


If a parent is ordered to pay child support and loses their job, their obligation to pay child support doesn't end. Instead, they will have to continue paying the court-ordered amount as long as the order remains in place. The parent can file a motion to modify the child support amount in court based on the substantial change in their financial circumstances since the order was issued. However, as long as the child support order remains in effect, the parent must continue paying as ordered until the court modifies the order to a new amount.

Child support orders are not automatically modified. Instead, it is up to the parent to file a motion to modify the child support order. If they don't file a motion to modify, the child support payments will continue to accrue. Child support arrears do not go away and are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Parents who fail to pay child support could be found in contempt of court and face penalties.

When Will a Court Grant a Motion to Modify Child Support?


A parent who has experienced a substantial change in their financial circumstances since the time the original child support order was issued can file a motion to modify child support. To receive a reduction, the parent must present evidence showing that the change was substantial, involuntary, and permanent. If you are unemployed, have fallen behind in your child support payments, and are able to work, the court will likely determine you can pay child support and find you in arrears.

You'll need to show that a material change in your circumstances or those of the other parent has occurred to get a reduction in your child support such as one of the following examples:

  • You have lost your home and are now homeless.
  • You were in an accident and sustained a serious injury.
  • You developed a serious illness.
  • You involuntarily lost your job in a layoff.
  • You suffered an involuntary reduction in pay.
  • The other parent received a sizeable inheritance.
  • The other parent received a big promotion with a substantial increase in pay.


If the court finds that the change in your circumstances was substantial, involuntary, permanent, and material, it will reduce your child support amount. However, if it doesn't find that your change in circumstances qualifies, it can find that you are in arrears and order various penalties. This is a good reason to continue paying your child support while your motion to modify is pending as best as you can until the court makes a decision.

Consult a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey


If you recently lost your job and are worried about your ability to pay child support, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC can review your situation and help you understand whether you might qualify for a modification. Contact us today at (973) 533-1100 to learn more.

In New Jersey, a parent's unemployment does not mean that they will not be ordered to pay child support. The court will consider the reason for the parent's unemployment and could impute income to them to calculate support when they are voluntarily unemployed. If a support order is already in place, losing your job will not end your obligation to pay child support. Instead, you'll need to seek a modification from the court to have the amount changed or temporarily halted while you look for work. Here's what to know about unemployment and its impact on child support from a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC.

Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment and Child Support


When a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court will determine whether their situation is voluntary. This is because both parents are expected to contribute to the child's upbringing, and child support is ordered in the best interests of the child instead of in either parent's interest. If a parent is found to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to try to avoid child support, the court can impute income to them. The court can impute income to a parent whether it is the initial child support case or a modification hearing.

Imputing income is at the discretion of the family court judge, so the judge will hold a hearing and will want to find out why the parent is unemployed or underemployed. The court will want to figure out whether the parent has a legitimate reason for being unemployed or for earning less than they should. If the court determines the parent does not have a legitimate reason for being unemployed or underemployed, the court can impute income to them. The court can impute income based on the parent's earnings capacity, education, work history, earnings record, and other factors. It can also use data from the New Jersey Department of Labor to see what other people in the same occupation earn on average and use that information to impute income to the parent.

What if a Parent is Involuntarily Unemployed?


If a parent is unemployed through no fault of their own, the court might still impute income to them, but it isn't mandatory. The court may impute income at the state's minimum wage. Depending on the reason for the parent's unemployment, no income might be imputed at all. For example, if a parent is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of a permanent disability that leaves them unable to work, the court likely will not impute income to them.

Unemployment Benefits and Child Support


If the paying parent loses their job and is awarded unemployment benefits, the other parent can garnish the unemployment benefits payments to recover child support. If the unemployed parent is left with too little to make ends meet, they can request a modification to temporarily reduce their child support until they can find a job.

What Can a Parent Do When They Become Unemployed?


If a parent is ordered to pay child support and loses their job, their obligation to pay child support doesn't end. Instead, they will have to continue paying the court-ordered amount as long as the order remains in place. The parent can file a motion to modify the child support amount in court based on the substantial change in their financial circumstances since the order was issued. However, as long as the child support order remains in effect, the parent must continue paying as ordered until the court modifies the order to a new amount.

Child support orders are not automatically modified. Instead, it is up to the parent to file a motion to modify the child support order. If they don't file a motion to modify, the child support payments will continue to accrue. Child support arrears do not go away and are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Parents who fail to pay child support could be found in contempt of court and face penalties.

When Will a Court Grant a Motion to Modify Child Support?


A parent who has experienced a substantial change in their financial circumstances since the time the original child support order was issued can file a motion to modify child support. To receive a reduction, the parent must present evidence showing that the change was substantial, involuntary, and permanent. If you are unemployed, have fallen behind in your child support payments, and are able to work, the court will likely determine you can pay child support and find you in arrears.

You'll need to show that a material change in your circumstances or those of the other parent has occurred to get a reduction in your child support such as one of the following examples:

  • You have lost your home and are now homeless.
  • You were in an accident and sustained a serious injury.
  • You developed a serious illness.
  • You involuntarily lost your job in a layoff.
  • You suffered an involuntary reduction in pay.
  • The other parent received a sizeable inheritance.
  • The other parent received a big promotion with a substantial increase in pay.


If the court finds that the change in your circumstances was substantial, involuntary, permanent, and material, it will reduce your child support amount. However, if it doesn't find that your change in circumstances qualifies, it can find that you are in arrears and order various penalties. This is a good reason to continue paying your child support while your motion to modify is pending as best as you can until the court makes a decision.

Consult a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey


If you recently lost your job and are worried about your ability to pay child support, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC can review your situation and help you understand whether you might qualify for a modification. Contact us today at (973) 533-1100 to learn more.

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