State agencies frown on quitting a job with the expectation of receiving unemployment benefits. The benefits programs exist to provide a safety net for workers who lose their jobs without being at fault. Agencies make exceptions for workers who quit under certain circumstances, however. In many states, quitting to take care of a sick child qualifies as good cause and allows you to receive benefits.
You normally can quit your job and receive unemployment benefits only if you had good cause relating directly to the work or your employer, such as unsafe working conditions. Exceptions vary by state, but many have some sort of provision for quitting to perform marital, filial or domestic obligations such as caring for a sick child. According to a U.S. Department of Labor survey of state unemployment programs, about half the states as of 2010 had exceptions for quitting to care for a sick child.
Among the states with allowances for quitting to care for a sick child or other immediate family member are Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Utah, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois and Massachusetts. Colorado makes such an allowance if the duration of the child's illness exceeds leave provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act or the employer's leave policy, whichever is longer. In Delaware, the child must have a verified disability. California, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington have some variation of a rule requiring employees to exhaust all avenues for agreeing to an alternative work schedule with their employer.
In most other states, quitting to care for a sick child does not constitute good cause and will result in a disqualification from benefits eligibility. A disqualification usually requires you to find other employment and earn a specific amount of wages to re-qualify for benefits. Of course, you must lose that subsequent job through no fault of your own to be eligible.
When your state agency reviews your unemployment benefits claim, the burden of proof is on you to prove that you had good cause to quit in keeping with state laws and regulations. This rule is distinct from job terminations, in which case the employer has the burden to prove that the discharge was for good cause. In the case of quitting to care for a sick child, required evidence could include documentation of your child's illness and, in some states, a demonstration that you made an effort to agree on an alternative work schedule with your employer.
Even if your state rules you eligible for unemployment benefits after you quit to care for your sick child, you have to maintain your eligibility by being available to accept full-time work and actively looking for work. If caring for your child inhibits your efforts and you cannot document a legitimate, full-time work search, your state might rule you ineligible.