As the recession drags on and the employment picture continues to be dim, there is a sad pattern that is playing out before the Support Magistrates in New York State. Many unemployed parents who are charged with paying child support seek to have their child support obligations reduced based upon their unemployment. Many of them are learning the hard way that being laid off and out of work is not enough under New York Law to get your child support reduced.

At first blush this may make no sense. However, this rule must be put into context. The law in New York is that a parent seeking modification of child support provision of prior order or judgment must demonstrate substantial change in circumstances that warrant such a modification.

When a parent seeking downward modification of child support based upon his or her loss of employment, they must demonstrate that loss of employment occurred through no fault of their own and that he or she diligently has sought re-employment. Although practice varies from court to court across New York State, as a general rule, if a parent qualifies for unemployment benefits, the court most likely will accept that their loss of employment was not their fault.

It is the second part of this rule that usually presents the problem for many litigants. The unemployed, or occasionally under-employed, party must prove that he or she diligently sought re-employment. This means more than just saying that “I looked for a job.” A diligent job search in the information age means looking on-line, posting a resume on-line, following up on applications or resumes submitted. It requires being proactive. The efforts made in this diligent search can be written or typed up into a nice neat chart, with the names and addresses of employers as well as the contact made and the dates for such. This then can be presented in Court as detailed proof of a diligent job search that satisfies the legal requirements.