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When parents are unable to pay child support

In Minnesota, child support orders are based on the parents' income. A non-custodial parent or even a parent who shares custody may be ordered to pay child support to the other parent in order to support the child's lifestyle and standard of living. However, those orders are based on a snapshot of a time when the order is put into place. Of course, a parent's lifestyle can change over time. In particular, parents may suffer financial hardship as a result of a job loss, disability or unexpected illness. They may find themselves unable to pay their child support bills and rack up unrepayable debt.

Child support debt can cause serious damage to a parent's life. It often cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, despite the hardship a parent may be experiencing. In addition, parents may face wage garnishment; they may be unable to receive a passport, and some even face jail time. For parents struggling with financial problems and poverty, this can make the situation even more desperate. However, parents who cannot pay are not locked into a child support order issued at a better financial time. They can return to court to seek a modification of the child support assessment.

Child support modifications can be either permanent or temporary depending on the reason for the modification. They may reflect a temporary crisis or a longer-term problem. This new order would reflect a parent's current circumstances instead of those of the original order. A parent should be able to show that these changes were significant and not an attempt to avoid support payments.

Parents who cannot pay their child support may find themselves facing a range of legal and financial problems. A family law attorney may be able to help them seek a child support modification to mitigate the hardship they experience.

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