What Should I Do if I Got Hurt in a Car Accident and Can’t Pay Child Support?

If you have a court or administrative order establishing your obligation to pay child support, you will be responsible for paying that amount, even when circumstances change drastically. You will need to be proactive about your child support obligation if something happens that makes it impossible for you to pay support. 

You might wonder, for example, what should I do if I got hurt in a car accident and can’t pay child support? This blog will offer some suggestions, but you will want to work with a North Carolina family law attorney to protect yourself from building up an arrearage that you cannot afford to pay. 

Informal Arrangements

When you cannot work to earn income and pay your child support obligation, you do not want to simply skip paying and hope that the other parent will understand, and that the judge will excuse your non-payment. When there is an existing child support order, your obligation will continue until that order gets modified. Your arrearage will grow every month.

You should notify the other parent right away of the reason why you will not be able to pay child support so they can try to arrange their finances accordingly. They will be more likely to make adjustments with you if you let them know what to expect. 

Use the “heads-up” contact with the other parent to try to negotiate a modified arrangement with them until you can work again and resume support payments. Depending on how severe your injuries are, you might offer to help them save money in other ways, like watching the children more to save the other parent money on work-related childcare.

If you can reach agreement on a temporary adjustment of the support obligation, you should put the terms in writing and get the judge’s approval of the amendment.

Modification of the Support Order

Sometimes, people have to go to court and let the judge decide what will happen. Although it might take weeks or months to get a decision, the judge might make the new support payment terms retroactive to the date of filing of the Motion to Modify the previous order. You will need to prove to the judge why you cannot work, so evidence from your doctor will be necessary.

The judge will consider other forms of income you might be receiving, like sick leave and short-term disability insurance payments. The new calculation will need to reduce your support obligation significantly. Courts rarely modify child support orders for a slight increase or decrease.

Potential Consequences of This Situation

If you receive disability benefits from insurance or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, or you get a personal injury settlement, some of those funds might go to pay your back and current child support obligations. If your only source of funds now is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), that is not treated as income, so it cannot get garnished by the other parent.

A North Carolina family law attorney can help you navigate this tricky situation when you cannot pay child support because you got injured in a car accident. Reach out to our office today, we gladly offer a free consultation.