As a parent, losing your job can send you into a whirlwind of emotion. Understandably, your first thought will be reserved for your children. You may be stressed about how you will financially provide for them. If you are in the process of a custody battle, your stress could be even greater. You may be concerned about how the loss of your job will affect your ability to gain or retain custody of your children.
If you are worried about losing custody due to losing your job, don’t be. Fortunately, a parent’s employment is not the ultimate factor that will determine child custody. The biggest factor that the courts take into consideration is what is in the best interest of the child. Because the courts want to keep both parents in the child’s life as much as possible, it will not help to take custody away from you when you have become unemployed.
Does that mean that my unemployment status doesn’t matter when granting custody?
Not necessarily. Sometimes, the courts will consider the parent’s ability to financially provide for their children when making child custody decisions. Even though this standard may not be considered “fair” to some, the courts will consider how well each parent is able to meet the best interests of their children. If your former spouse claims that he or she should receive sole custody of the children based on their stable income, the courts may grant custody to your former spouse.
However, that does not mean that you will automatically lose custody of your children. Just because your former spouse makes more money than you at the moment, it doesn’t mean that you are not capable of meeting the best interests of the children. Your former spouse would have to prove how your job loss puts your children in harm’s way or negatively affects their quality of life.
What if I am a stay-at-home parent?
There are certain situations where the unemployed status of the parent does not automatically mean that custody is in jeopardy. If you have been a stay-at-home parent, for example, chances are that you have been the primary caregiver of the children. Because the courts do not want to disrupt the children’s stable environment, there are other options that the court can exercise to help you keep custody of your children. One of the options includes requesting that your spouse pay child support and alimony for the dynamics of your household to continue.
Will my partner automatically be awarded custody if I lose my job?
Even though the loss of your job could be a concerning factor in your custody negotiations, your unemployment status does not mean that you cannot financially provide for your children. Your unemployment benefits can serve as a way to financially provide for your children. Staying in communication with your spouse and letting him or her know that you are unemployed can also help your case. This is a sign that you are continuing to work with your partner to do what is best for the children.
What are some steps I can take to maintain custody of my children?
After losing a job, it can seem as if it is the end of the world. However, do not give into that feeling. Your custody is not in jeopardy based on your job status. However, there are some actions that you can take to ensure that your custody arrangement remains stable:
- Speak with your former spouse. Your unemployment status will affect not only your children, but your former spouse. Letting your former spouse know of your current situation is a great way to communicate with your co-parent. If you and your former spouse are on good terms, you can brainstorm on how to navigate your co-parenting plans moving forward. If your relationship with your former spouse is tumultuous, you may communicate through your attorneys to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Control the things that you can. Your unemployment status may change the nature of your and your family’s schedule, and that is not a bad thing. Maybe your children were attending daycare while you had to work. Now that you are currently looking for a job, you can revise your caretaking responsibilities with your children. Taking on more of the caretaking responsibilities can save you and your former spouse money and show that you are still considering the best options for your children.
- Inform the courts of your unemployment status. If you are paying a child support order, you will still be required to make payments despite your unemployment status. While you can also use your unemployment benefits to make your child support order, you also have the option of modifying your child support order. This is why staying in communication with your partner is important. Your partner will also need to agree with the support order modification.
To modify your child support order, you will need to file a motion with the court. It is better to file as soon as possible, because it can take months until the court reaches a hearing.
At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville child custody attorneys empathize with your situation. We understand that your current economic situation does not affect your ability to provide a loving environment for your children. You deserve legal representation that is passionate about fighting for your parental rights. Our child custody attorneys can also help modify your child support order and assist with resolving any co-parenting issues you and your former spouse may face.
Keeping custody of your children is your main priority, and ours. When you have lost your job, you are not alone. Allow the Knoxville child custody attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter to help. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office at (865) 637-6258 or fill out our contact form today.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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