Parents are legally obligated to financially support their children whether they are married or not. When married parents divorce and they have children, the court will issue orders for child custody and child support. When a child is born to unmarried parents and paternity is legally established, the courts can then issue child support orders, but the courts are unable to issue child support orders if paternity has not been confirmed.
If you are a noncustodial parent and you’ve been ordered to pay child support or if you’re the higher-earning parent with joint custody and you’re ordered to pay child support, you may have questions about child support, and if there are any circumstances that would make it so you’re not required to pay child support. After all, most parents who pay child support have questions about such things.
Can a Parent Stop Paying?
We have had clients ask us lots of questions about their obligation to pay child support. They wonder if they are unemployed if it relieves their obligation until they get another job. They ask if the other parent won’t let them see their children if they can stop paying. They ask if they are injured in an accident, or incarcerated if they still have to pay child support, and if they become terminally ill, if they have to pay child support – all valid questions indeed.
Here’s the deal: Parents have to pay child support no matter what. If you’re a paying parent, you’re still legally required to pay child support if you are:
- Mentally ill
- Terminally ill
- Seriously injured
The only way a parent is relieved of their legal obligation to pay child support is if their parental rights are voluntarily or involuntarily terminated by a court. Absent the termination of parental rights, a parent is on the hook for child support until it’s paid off, even if it takes decades. What’s more, child support debt cannot be discharged in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and it cannot be reduced.