Child support is a fundamental right of the child (not the parent), and courts take child support seriously. The failure to pay child support can result in severe consequences, including wage garnishment, the loss of your driver’s and professional licenses, and even jail time. So when a court orders you to pay child support, you need to pay it, unless you can show a very compelling reason not to.

Child support payments are set by state family law courts. The way the amount is calculated varies from state to state, but typically, it’s based on your income, the other parent’s income, the number of kids you have and how much time each child will spend with each parent.

What happens when, through no fault of your own, you can no longer keep up with your child support payments? In such cases, a lawyer may be able to help you reduce your support payments, but only if you can show a legitimate reason to do so.

If you hire a lawyer to reduce your payments, he or she will file a petition (legal paperwork) asking the court for a reduction. States have their own rules for deciding when to reduce child support, but generally speaking, your lawyer will need to show that you have a substantial and ongoing change in your circumstances that prevents you from paying.