Can I Avoid Child Support if I'm Disabled?

If you are a noncustodial parent who pays child support and you become disabled as a result of an accident, an illness, or a workplace accident, you may find yourself physically incapable of working. If you are disabled and unable to work, how does your disability impact your child support obligation? Can you stop paying since you can’t work?

In California and all states for that matter, parents are legally responsible for supporting their children, whether they’re married or not. Of course, if a child is born to unmarried parents, the father has no legal obligation to support his child until paternity is established. Are you off the hook if you become disabled? No, you are not.

Disabled? You Still Have to Pay

Under California law, noncustodial parents have to pay child support until their children turn 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school and living at home. If you become disabled, you still have to support your child. The only way a parent can avoid paying child support is if their parental rights are terminated. Parents still have to pay support if they are mentally ill, disabled, or incarcerated.

“Can child support be taken from workers’ compensation or Social Security Disability (SSD)?” Yes, it can be taken from both workers’ comp and disability benefits. Child support can also be garnished from unemployment benefits. It cannot, however, be taken from Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Can Child Support Be Reduced?

If you have become disabled due to an accident, an illness, or a disease, and there has been a significant change in your monthly income, you will want to petition the court for a modification. Please understand that a new court order has to be signed by the court to change your monthly child support obligation. Child support is not automatically reduced when you lose your job because of a disability.

Under California law, child support can be modified when the paying parent has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances, and going from a full-time job to disability or workers’ comp could count as a big enough change.

Changes to a child support order are NOT retroactive. They are only effective from the date that the court issues the order. To learn more about petitioning the court for a downward modification, contact our San Diego family law firm today.

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