Changing Child Support: When Can it be Done?
Contested Divorce Lawyer
Child support is part of every divorce agreement when there are children in the picture. Generally, an amount is calculated by the court while the divorce is being hammered out, but sometimes spouses come to the agreement themselves. Either way, the amount and frequency of child support is not often changeable. When it is, you must fulfill all the requirements for the order to be accepted by the court.
State law dictates that support modifications can only be made once every few years or when a “significant change” has occurred in the needs of the child, or in the income of the non-custodial parent. There is some debate about what constitutes a significant change. Generally speaking, a support order will not be modified by a court unless a parent can show a significant change, and reliable proof that supports their claims.
If a child becomes disabled, or if a parent’s job title changes, their health care and retirement package may also change. Another possibility is if the non-custodial parent loses their job. Such an event would adversely affect the amount of child support they could afford to pay.
When one of the parents wants to change the amount of child support, they must file a motion with the appropriate court. What they are actually filing for is a review of their existing order, not the creation of a new one. The parent must file a Petition to Modify an Order of Child Support (or, depending on the circumstances, to modify the divorce decree itself), which the court will then take into consideration.
You and your ex-spouse will be advised as to whether your order qualifies for a review. If it does, you will be asked to provide proof of your income, as well as any other supporting evidence that speaks in favor of a modification. Generally, you will find out whether the review has been granted or denied via mail; there is no need to appear physically in court in all but the very rarest cases.
If you receive a determination you disagree with, however, and your order is judicial (as opposed to administrative; the former is set by a judge, while the latter is set by an administrative body), you may appear in court to contest the decision. If your order is administrative, you may request a new hearing in order to appeal. These options are only available if your order increases or decreases – if the review yields child support payments set at the same amount as before, you may simply request a redetermination with the same entity that made the first determination.
Changes in your life may make it impossible to pay the amount of child support you paid before – but no good parent wants to shortchange their children. Enlisting the help of a seasoned attorney can make the process easier. As our contested divorce lawyer friends from AttorneyBernie.com provide their clients, a lawyer can assess your situation and then work with you toward the best options for you and your family.