How Does Child Support Work if the Father Has No Job?

By staff
Updated Dec 26, 2022


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Child support payments are a necessity for many divorced parents. Most households use two incomes to raise their children. When one of those incomes is gone, the children’s quality of life can decline. Support payments make it easier for parents to keep their children fed, clothed, clean, educated, and safe.

If the father has no job, you may be worried about how you’re going to support your children after your divorce. In many cases, a jobless father can still be liable for child support payments.

What Is Custody

Who Has To Pay Child Support?

Fathers don’t always have to pay child support; it all depends on the way custody is arranged. Usually, the parent with the least amount of custody will have to pay child support to the parent with the most amount of custody. It’s a common sense-based arrangement.

The person who spends the most time with the children will also spend the most money on the children, and child support payments can make costs easier to manage.

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What If the Father Has Sole or Primary Custody?

If the father has sole custody (or full custody) of the children, he doesn’t have to pay child support. The children spend every night at his house, and no one else is responsible for their care. If the father has primary custody, where children spend most of their time with him, it’s highly unlikely that he would have to pay child support to anyone.

In both of these scenarios, it’s highly likely that the other parent will be expected to make child support payments to the father. The father would be shouldering almost all of the costs alone when he assumes the role of the main caregiver in his children's lives.

What If the Father Has Split Custody?

In a joint custody (or 50/50 custody) arrangement, fathers will sometimes have to pay child support. It’s an uncommon situation, as both parents are perceived to have equal financial responsibility for the well-being of their children.

Child support in a joint custody situation largely depends on the income disparity between parents.

The court wants to see that children are able to enjoy the same lifestyle they had prior to their parents being divorced. If the father makes more money than the child’s other parent, he may be ordered to pay a lesser amount in child support to help subsidize things like after-school activities or hobbies for the child.

What If the Father Has No Custody?

Fathers without physical or legal custody of their children are still expected to pay child support.

Not having custody of the children doesn’t mean that a father can’t be a part of your children’s lives. It simply means they cannot stay with their father for an extended period of time or have overnight visits.

They may still be allowed to have visitation with their child and attend holiday or birthday events for their child.

The only way to avoid paying child support when you don’t have custody of your children is to completely forfeit your parental rights.

Forfeiting your parental rights means that you will never be allowed to see your children again and you aren’t entitled to an opinion about anything in the lives of your children. This option is available to both parents. It’s a nuclear option, and it’s very unwise to give up all legal claims to your own children.

How Does Child Support Work If the Father Has No Job?

If the father of a child has no job and should be paying child support, the court will calculate the father’s earning potential. They’ll look at his work experience and determine the average salary he could expect to make if he got a job in a field where he has experience. They’ll make child support projections based on that figure.

If the father is jobless even though he could go to work and jobs are available, the court will consider him to be voluntarily unemployed. They don’t make exceptions for people who choose not to work when they’re capable of working.

If the father cannot work due to disability or reaching the age of retirement, he may still be accountable for child support. Disability or retirement income acts the same as employment income in the eyes of the court. If the father qualifies for such income and isn’t receiving it, the court will want him to apply for it.

How Does Child Support Work If the Father Has a Part-Time Job?

Depending on the circumstances, the court may be willing to adjust child support payments if the father only has a part-time job. If there are health circumstances that prevent the father from having a full-time job, the court will recognize his limitations.

If there are substantial widespread issues with the local job market, the court may consider that as well.

If the father is perfectly capable of working full-time and there are full-time jobs available, the court will consider the father to be voluntarily underemployed. They will order child support payments based on projected full-time employment income.

How Does Child Support Work If the Father Loses His Job?

If the father of the children gets laid off or fired, he needs to contact the court right away. The court may put a pause on his child support payment schedule to give him time to find a new job. The pause won’t be indefinite, and he’ll be expected to find a new job.

When he reports back to the court that he’s found a new job, child support payments will resume.

If the father doesn’t report to the court after finding a new job, he may face consequences. If the court learns that he’s been generating income after claiming he’s unemployed, the court can garnish the wages from his new job. He may face other consequences relating to failure to pay child support, such as the suspension of his driver’s license.

What Happens If the Father Refuses To Pay Child Support?

Child support orders are issued by the court. Failing to follow a court order has consequences. The court can intervene and extract a monthly child support payment directly from the father’s paycheck before the money reaches his bank account.

If they’re unable to do so because the father doesn’t receive a paycheck from an employer, they’ll impose consequences in other ways.

Most states give the court the power to suspend someone’s driver’s license for failure to pay child support. In rare cases, fathers can face jail time for failure to comply with a child support order.

Do Mothers Ever Pay Child Support?

There’s a common misconception that mothers never pay child support, but this isn’t true. The rules for child support are the same for both parents.

Mothers pay child support under the same circumstances that fathers pay child support. If a father has majority custody of the children and a mother is adequately employed, the father can request child support payments from the mother for the well-being of their children.

Mothers won’t pay child support if they have primary custody of the children, just like fathers won’t.

What If One Parent Disagrees With How the Other Parent Spends Child Support?

The court does not require people to keep track of how they’re spending child support payments. The argument can be made that child support payments act as reimbursement for the money that a parent has already spent. If the children are fed, clothed, healthy, and safe, it doesn’t always matter where the child support payment goes.

If the parent uses the child support payment to pay rent or make car payments, this is perfectly acceptable. The children live in the house, and the car is used to safely transport them. These payments contribute to a child’s well-being.

If your children aren’t being properly cared for and you believe the child support money is being wasted or spent frivolously, you’ll need to discuss the situation with a lawyer.

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Do You Need Help With Child Support?

The best time to decide on child custody arrangements and child support is at the very beginning of your divorce.

You’ll have the best chance of creating a functional arrangement that supports the well-being of your children if you start using your arrangement early on. Children need stability and routine in their lives.

If you need help deciding how to create your divorce settlement, you can use mediation services to discuss the issues and create compromises.

If you’re having trouble with late or missing child support payments, you’ll need the help of a lawyer. You can easily find a local attorney who specializes in family law. They’ll be able to walk you through your options.

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