Child support may not exactly be a “forgotten” element to divorce, but it certainly takes a back seat to some other issues — most notably to it’s associated issue, child custody. Child support payments can drastically affect the lives of the two spouses and the child involved.

Obviously the parent that is receiving the child support payments needs the money because a decision was made by a judge, or the parties involved, that the receiving parent needed added financial support to care for the child. This, in turn, directly impacts the child. He or she needs food, supplies, care, and many other things that require financial support.

The paying spouse needs to keep up with his or her payments too, otherwise he or she is at substantial risk of serious, life-altering penalties. You may ask yourself “well then why would any paying spouse miss a payment?”

There are many reason that someone may miss payment. Maybe it was an honest mistake. Maybe the paying spouse lost his or her job. Maybe he or she had a reduction in salary or a new, unexpected cost came up. Maybe they were diligently paying every month on time, and they thought they could get away with missing one month.

In any case, the paying spouse stands to loose a lot. Missing a payment can lead to financial penalties racking up to the point that they can longer afford to keep up with their payments. Soon, a warrant could be issued for their arrest, let alone the fact that legal action could be taken by their ex. This can all lead to a downwards spiral, where mounting debt, jail time, and the loss of their job (due to the jail time) can derail a paying spouse’s life.

Thankfully, this can be avoided by either keeping up with the payments, or reaching a compromise with your ex-spouse over how to effectively change your child support agreement so that all parties involved are happy.

Source: New York Times, “Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat.,” Frances Robles and Shaila Dewan, April 19, 2015