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Child support hits unemployed noncustodial parents hard

Like elsewhere in the country, family court judges in Minnesota must make tough decisions when a couple divorces or a nontraditional family separates with one parent taking the couple's children and the other ordered to pay financial support. All of these decisions are made with the best interests of the child in mind. When it comes to setting the amount of child support, factors such as the child's daily living expenses as well as education and medical needs are used to calculate the amount of support to be paid.

As the attorneys at Terzich & Ort LLP know, a family court looks closely at the noncustodial parent's finances, including existing obligations to any other children in order to determine how much to order the noncustodial parent to pay. Although judges recognize that either parent's financial circumstances can change, payments are set so that they should meet the child's needs without overly burdening the parent who pays.

Sometimes, though, noncustodial parents lose jobs, are incarcerated, file for bankruptcy or suffer medical issues that create profound financial stress. The obligation to pay support remains, however. In these cases, the noncustodial parent is better off consulting a legal professional who can help petition the court for a child-support modification.

The recent recession that hit the country so hard saw a surge in the number of noncustodial parents who fell behind on payments, often because they lost their jobs or were otherwise financially distressed. For parents who qualified for unemployment benefits, child support was often deducted. Many of these parents petitioned the court for modifications, and many were granted as long as the parent could justify the need for relief. Any noncustodial parent who voluntarily evades his or her obligation by underreporting income or quitting a job, however, can suffer criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

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