15850 W. Bluemound Rd. Suite 304 • Brookfield, WI 53005

15850 W. Bluemound Rd. Suite 304 • Brookfield, WI 53005 • 262-788-5335

My Ex was Laid Off and Can’t Pay Child Support—What Can We Do Now?

Since the coronavirus outbreak, there have been a record number of unemployment claims in the United States. With many companies and businesses impacted by shelter-in-place orders, there have been furloughs and layoffs throughout Wisconsin. For some parents, this situation has impacted child support. Some placement parents who were counting on these funds to pay for their children’s expenses are being told there is no money. What can a parent do if their ex is telling them that they have been laid off and can’t pay child support?

Wisconsin Child Support

If your ex contacts you and tells you that he or she has been furloughed or laid off and can no longer pay child support, this does not change their child support obligation. In Wisconsin, only a court can change a child support order. The child support order can only be modified by a Wisconsin court. If an obligated parent loses their job, they have ten days to notify the Wisconsin Child Support Agency. If the parent expects the job loss to last more than 6 to 8 weeks or to result in a substantial change to their income, they can request that the child support agency review their order.

Penalties and Enforcement

When a parent fails to pay child support, the other parent can file an enforcement action and take them to court and ask for payment as well as fines and penalties. An administrative child support lien can be attached if the parent’s unpaid amount is $500 or more. Depending on the facts, the child support agency may be able to request that a court take further action against the parent, including imposing fines and holding the parent in contempt of court.

Unemployment Benefits and Wisconsin Child Support

In Wisconsin, if someone is laid off, they can apply for unemployment benefits. If your ex is telling you that he or she is no longer working because of a layoff or furlough, then it’s likely that they applied for unemployment benefits. Parents who were having child support payments withheld from their paychecks who file for unemployment will have the same withheld from their unemployment payments. Wisconsin allows up to 50% of these checks to be withheld for child support. These amounts can include penalties and unpaid support payments.

Child Support Modification

If the obligated parent requests a review of the child support order, the obligated parent would have to provide evidence in this instance that the change in child support would be $50 or more a month. If the parents agree, they can sign an agreement to that effect at the child support agency. If a parent does not agree to the stipulation, the child support agency could ask the court to change the order. The court can then review the order to determine whether the change is necessary.