When parents go through a divorce (or when unmarried parents with children separate), the court is empowered to make decisions about what is in the child’s best interest, including how their needs will be met. If the court ordered you to pay child support, you must observe the order. However, in the future, it may become difficult or impossible to do so, or circumstances may otherwise materially change such that it is appropriate to request a change in support amounts. In those cases, you could request that the court modify the payments. It is important to note, however, that you should not cease payments pursuant to a court order until you are permitted to do so by entry of a subsequent order. A simple verbal agreement between you and the other party to change support will not suffice.
Here are four situations that may call for child support modification:
Loss of income
If you lose your job through no fault of your own, it may be challenging to pay child support. You may have to take on debts to meet the court order. You may request the court to change the existing order. You will want to be prepared to show the court that you did not lose your job due to your own voluntary choice or poor behavior (or otherwise for cause), and that you have been diligently trying to obtain employment at your former earning capacity.
If you develop a disability that affects your earning potential, perhaps it makes it difficult for you to go to work or continue with your particular career, the court may reduce your child support payments upon request. If the disability is not expected to be permanent, the court may give you a temporary modification. You will want to be prepared to show proof of your disability and how it impacts your ability to work. This may require expert testimony about your condition and its impact on employment.
Addition of responsibilities
If you have new responsibilities, such as having a new child, you may also request the court to change the child support order. You will want to show however, that you are not abdicating your responsibilities to your previous child(ren) in favor of your “new” child.
A change in child custody
If you and the other parent modified child custody and the parenting plan that you now spend most of the time with your kid or live with them, you could also change the child support order.
Modifying your child support order may be necessary in the circumstances discussed above, as well as many others. You should always get legal guidance to make informed decisions.