The divorce rate in the United States is 50 percent, as indicated by 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caught in the middle of some of these divorces are children, which means that child support is a major issue for many parents. One question that comes up in this regard is whether child support can be increased if the mother doesn't work.
How Courts Decide Child Support Amounts
Each state has different regulations on how courts calculate child support. However, every state uses the same basic two concepts. The main concept is that the support should be sufficient, when combined with the income of the custodial parent, to meet the best interests of the child. The second concept is that, although the best interests of the child have to be the primary consideration, the child support amount should be reasonable given the non-custodial parent's income and assets, and that the amount should not cause unnecessary financial difficulty. This means that courts have to look at the financial situation of both parents when they figure out how much the child support award should be.
Lack of Work and Income
When a mother does not work and has custody of a child, her ability to meet the best interests of the child is more limited. The courts assume that the mother needs more assistance in this situation. Thus, courts may increase the mother's child support. However, this depends on the mother's financial status. If the mother is not working but has income or savings which are sufficient to meet expenses for herself and the child, the courts may decide that an increase in support is not appropriate.
If the mother who isn't working is the non-custodial parent, the same general rule applies -- if the courts determine that income and assets of the mother are sufficient to meet the increase request, and the increase would benefit the child, they may approve the change in support.
Effort to Work
Courts do not want to give either parent license to be unemployed as to not encourage reliance on the child support. For this reason, if a mother doesn't work, the court may request an explanation as to why the mother hasn't found or accepted a job. When the mother is the non-custodial parent, the mother may present evidence toward her explanation to make an argument against the child support change.
The Bottom Line
Just because a parent wants an increase in child support does not mean she will get it, regardless of her employment status. A parent who clearly can demonstrate that the increase is necessary through financial records and statements is much more likely to win an increase. As a non-custodial parent, a lack of employment does not always protect you against having to pay more for your child, so you should be prepared for such requests. Courts evaluate child support on a case-by-case basis, so you cannot use other cases as a precedent.