Does being unemployed affect child custody? The short answer is no. But of course, there is much more to consider. After all, if you are divorced, have kids, AND are unemployed, your world can be extremely stressful. You can’t help but worry: If I don’t have a job, will I lose custody of my kids? It’s not something any parent wants to happen, and we’re happy to report that it can be prevented. Let’s take a quick look at this topic.
What to do If You Lose Your Job
If you become unemployed, there are several things you can do to help protect your custody rights. First, immediately tell your ex that you have lost your job. We know how difficult this can be, especially if you and your ex are not on good terms. But it’s essential for your ex to know that your financial situation is changing. Besides, he or she will find out soon enough.
The next step is to file for unemployment benefits with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). If you are making child support payments, be sure to provide this information. In most cases, TWC will deduct the payments from your unemployment benefits.
The next step is to consider telling your kids that you are unemployed. Again, we recognize how painful this might be. But—unless your kids are very young—they will be better off knowing what you are dealing with, and what you are doing to make sure you do not lose custody.
Be sure to tell your friends that you are unemployed, too. They may be able to help you find a job, and you want to do everything you can to keep custody of your children.
If I Am Unemployed, Will I Lose Custody of My Kids?
In Texas, judges are expected to make custody decisions based on what they believe is in the best interests of the children. And whenever possible, Texas courts want both parents involved in their kids’ lives. In Texas, the courts describe this as joint managing conservatorship.
Therefore, you will not automatically lose child custody just because you are unemployed. For example, in order to provide a stale home for the kids, you may move in with a relative or friend.
However, know that what a court considers to be best for the children does not always seem “fair” to the parents. For example, your ex may argue that he or she has a more stable income, and deserves to have custody of the children.
Therefore, if the judge determines that the unemployed parent truly is not able to meet the best interests of the children, he or she may give custody to the other parent. Of course, this can be very distressing. But keep in mind that the parent can petition the court to regain custody after he or she has found work.
Caring for the Kids is Different than Being Unemployed and May Not Affect Custody
When the couple is married, it is not unusual for one parent (usually the mother) to stay home and care for the children. In this case, being “unemployed” is not the same as losing your job. In fact, the court may give the woman child custody and order the other spouse to pay child support and spousal maintenance, commonly known as alimony.
At the same time, the court is likely to expect the parent to actively search for employment eventually. More important, if a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, this can significantly affect their parental rights.
If You Are Making Child Support Payments, Keep Doing Them Even if You are Unemployed
If you are making child support payments, the court expects you to keep up with them—even if you have lost your job. So you should keep paying child support even if you are unemployed. If you skip payments, you will have to pay them eventually, perhaps with interest added.
More significant, failing to pay child support can seriously endanger your child custody and visitation rights. In a worst-case scenario, the court could find you in contempt. The judge could fine you or order you to do time in jail.
You Can Request a Modification to Your Court Order
If you become unemployed, you can petition the court to adjust your child support payments. The Texas Attorney General’s Office states, “Noncustodial parents who lose their job or see their income decrease can complete a Request for Review.”
However, the Attorney General’s Office also states, “Your child support ordered amount does not change until the court changes it.” Therefore, you should submit your request as soon as possible. And keep making payments while your request is under review.
In short, don’t let anything, including being unemployed, jeopardize your child custody rights, now or in the future. A family law attorney experienced in child custody cases can be very helpful in these situations.
What if I Am Ineligible for Unemployment Benefits?
As noted, the court expects you to continue making child support payments. If the TWC denies your request for benefits, you should share this information with your ex and with the court as quickly as possible. Also, be sure to keep an accurate record of your job search activities.
Again, being unemployed does not directly affect child custody. You want to keep it that way.
Don’t Take Chances with Your Children
Whether you are unemployed or working, if you are going through a divorce, you don’t want to take chances with your child custody rights. Sean Lynch, PLLC, is here to help. Our Fort Worth law firm can provide you with experienced, compassionate legal representation. We will fight to protect your parental rights while being sensitive to you and your family. For a no-cost, 30-minute case review, call us today at 817-668-5879.