Many of my divorce clients I see at my Peoria, Pekin, and Galesburg offices have child support obligations. Most time, the child support is taken directly out of my clients’ paychecks by garnishment. This is true whether the client resides in Peoria, Pekin, or Galesburg. Garnishment of child support is the general rule. Some of these clients come to me after their divorce is entered to discuss changes in income that could justify a modification of the child support they pay. Others come in to see me because one or more of their children have completed high school, and therefore, they are no longer obligated to pay child support. Modifying a child support order is a relatively simple thing to do when the children have graduated from high school, or the payer of child support has lost his or her job, has been temporarily laid off, or has been hurt on the job.
What can cause serious problems is when someone loses his job so that he does not have the ability to pay child support, but does nothing about it. This may happen for one of two reasons: either, one mistakenly believes that he is not obligated to do anything to reduce or stop child support; he believes that because he lost his job, the court will automatically terminate his child support obligation, at least temporarily. I’ve seen the same mistake happen when the children graduate from high school. The child support payer thinks mistakenly that he can stop paying child support once this happens; he doesn’t need a court order stopping the support. Wrong. The child support will continue to accrue and be garnished from your paycheck until your employer receives a court order saying its OK to terminate it.
The other reason a child support payer may not go to court to obtain an order to reduce or stop his support temporarily is that, without income, he can’t afford to hire an attorney. Understandable. But, what most people in this situation fail to realize is that filing a petition to reduce or terminate child support doesn’t require an attorney; its something that you can do on your own – DIY. Simply type or hand write your petition that tells the court in plain English what happened – either you lost your job, you’re temporarily laid off, or your children have graduated from high school. File your petition with the court, obtain a hearing date from the court’s clerk, and serve the other party with your petition and a notice of the hearing. The court clerk is not permitted to provide you with legal advice. Keep copies of everything, have the clerk file-stamp your copies as receipts, and certify when you served the other party. Termination of the child support is made retroactive to the date you mail the notice of hearing to the other party. Mail the notice of hearing immediately after you obtain the date from the clerk. If your child support was being garnished from your paycheck, your employer will need a copy of the order modifying your support obligation before stopping the garnishment.
If you fail to take action, the consequences are significantly adverse. For each monthly child support payment you miss, interest begins to accrue on the unpaid installment at the rate of 9% per annum 30 days following the missed payment. The accrual of interest alone on the unpaid amounts can be staggering, and often, the amount of interest owed exceeds the principal amount owed by a wide margin.
If for some good reason your child support should be reduced, stopped temporarily, or eliminated altogether, you must file a petition and obtain an order giving you permission to make this change. Failing to take action can lead to costly consequences. There’s no reason not to take care of this problem. Filing a petition to modify the child support you pay is something you can Do Yourself.