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Can furloughed employees get a break from paying child support?

The partial government shutdown has been in effect for nearly a month now. More than 800,000 federal employees—not to mention many other government contractors—have been attempting the impossible: to survive without pay for an indefinite amount of time.

Many Americans have less than $400 saved away for a rainy day, so getting by with no money coming in is extraordinarily challenging for the average Joe. Concerns over how you’ll pay your mortgage or buy groceries are bad enough. But if you also owe child support on top of that, the implications of non-payment could be even more devastating.

If you’re a federal employee who’s been impacted by the shutdown—rendering you unable to pay child support—help may be available to you. You may be able to petition the court to alter your payment requirements:

Modification of child support

You can file a petition with the court explaining your current situation, and asking them to modify your child support order. Normally, such modifications are only approved for significant changes in circumstances. Whether or not a temporary—albeit unspecified—pause on your income stream is deemed to be a significant enough change depends on the judge’s opinion.

Abatement of child support

If a child support modification is not possible, you may still be able to request that your child support obligations be abated temporarily. If the court grants such a request, it would put your child support on hold until you start getting paid again.

Ultimately, the decision to grant a child support modification or abatement is up to the courts. However, having an experienced child support attorney to advocate on your behalf can greatly improve your chances of success.

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