Question: What should you do if you have lost your job and cannot afford to pay child support?
I am sorry about your job. Hopefully, you will get back on your feet soon! You should start by reviewing A.R.S § 25-327, which permits an Arizona court to modify or terminate spousal maintenance or child support ONLY upon proof of changed circumstances that are both *substantial* and *continuing*. For example, if you lost your job only because of a temporary corporate downsizing or lay-off, and you expect to be brought back on board within a couple of months, then you will not be able to modify support because, although your changed circumstance is certainly substantial, it is not continuing. Similarly, if a man loses his job as a nurse at one hospital, but has the ability to secure immediate employment at another hospital with comparable wages and benefits, then he, too, will not likely persuade the judge to lower child support. (The court will expect him to make best efforts to secure a new job.)
If the employment change is serious, long-term and beyond your power to reverse, and you are confident that you qualify for relief, then you should turn next to Arizona Family Law Rules of Procedure Rule 91(A) & (B) which set out the procedure for petitioning the court to modify child support.Make sure you read both Sections (A) and (B) *very* carefully, as there are a number of required forms and attachments that you must submit with your petition.
One final word of warning: If your financial hardship looks as if it will continue indefinitely, despite your best efforts to make things right, you should consider acting on this immediately. Don't wait around. As long as the current child support order remains in effect without any modification petition on the books, your indebtedness will continue to stack up into an arrearage that the court may not have any authority to retroactively reduce. In other words, until you act, you will have to pay the current amount. Talk to a family law attorney with experience in child support matters, and do something soon!
December 26, 2006