As a parent (biological or adoptive), you are legally and ethically responsible for taking care of your child until he becomes self-sufficient. You can be ordered to pay a specified amount of child support each month, based upon your income, if you are the non-custodial parent. To a smaller extent, custodial parents may sometimes be required to pay, depending on the circumstances. As with any rule, there are exceptions, and you may be exempt from paying child support, provided you meet certain conditions.
Find an attorney who is experienced in all aspects of family law, including legal separation, divorce, child custody, visitation and child support. Since odds are traditionally stacked against you, take some extra time to search for an attorney who's going to aggressively work for you, as the non-custodial parent, to make sure your rights and interests are protected.
Seek free legal representation from your local legal aid office, if you cannot afford an attorney. If your case is being handled by your state's child support enforcement agency, contact them to discuss your situation. Find out what evidence you need to present for the court or agency's review.
Submit a formal motion to modify (or in this case, stop) child support payments, to the court or agency that is handling your case. Explain in detail what led you to the point where you are unable to provide for your child, and show solid proof.
File for joint physical custody of the child, but do so because you genuinely want to be a part of his life, not because you want to get out of paying child support when you are otherwise able to do so. The judge or agency will take into account your ongoing relationship with the child, including past relations.
Prepare to fully substantiate your claims and present your case in court, if necessary. Speak clearly and answer all questions honestly and to the best of your recollection. Come prepared, dressed neatly, well-rested and organised on the day of the hearing.
- -- If the basis of your claim is to dispute that you are the parent, you must consent to taking a blood test or giving a DNA sample to confirm your suspicions. It is best to raise this issue before the child support order is entered; otherwise, it will be much more difficult to challenge it, particularly if you previously acknowledged that you were the parent.
- -- Filing for joint physical custody can result in the parent with the higher income paying child support to the parent who makes less.
- -- If your request to terminate child support payments is denied, the judge or agency may recalculate your monthly payments and have them reduced instead, based upon the incomes of both you and the other parent. If the other parent's income has increased significantly, this may qualify you for a lower monthly contribution.
- -- Do not rely on oral agreements between you and the other parent when it comes to financial support. If the custodial parent decides to drop the child support claim, then she must do so in writing to the presiding court/agency and the case must be legally closed before you can stop making payments.
- -- Don't simply take it upon yourself to stop making payments because if you do, you can be held in contempt of the child support order and convicted.