Requesting Child Support Modification in Court

Find out when the courts consider child support modification

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Circumstances change. So even if child support has already been formally established, you can still go back and ask for a child support modification. Whether you need the adjustment to be short-term or permanent, here's what you need to know about asking for a child support modification in court:

When to Request a Child Support Modification

In most states, after parents separate, a child support proceeding takes place, which is considered part of the divorce/separation process.

Minor children, those under the age of 18, are entitled to the same level of support they would have received if the two parents had stayed together. At the court hearing, each parent should be prepared to present evidence of his/her ability to pay child support. The best evidence is the most recent tax returns and recent pay stubs. After the court orders a specific child support amount, it is often the case that one parent may seek to modify the child support agreement. However, a parent seeking child support modification will need to prove a change of circumstances.

What Factors Are Considered in Child Support Modification?

There are several reasons why a parent may seek a modification of child support including:

  • The decrease of income: During a recession, it is often the case that one parent has lost their primary income and, as such, the parent may be either unable to meet their child support obligation or a primary caretaker might seek an increase in support because he/she is unable to support the child on the amount paid with the current support order.
  • The increase of responsibilities for the minor: As children age, their needs increase. Some children might need braces or they might begin to participate in after school activities. A custodial parent might seek additional child support to assist in the costs associated with aging children.
  • The increase of familiar responsibilities: A non-custodial parent may have more children or marry/remarry. Therefore, a parent might seek to decrease his/her child support obligation to one child to increase support for subsequent children.
  • A large inheritance or a substantial increase in income: If a custodial parent discovers that the parent responsible for payments child support payments (the obligor) is the beneficiary of a large sum of money, a custodial parent might consider petitioning the court for an increase in child support responsibilities. As such, an obligor might be responsible for an additional child support payments, based on an increase of income.

Temporary vs. Permanent Child Support Modification

The court may either grant a temporary or permanent modification of child support. A temporary modification is a large one-time expenditure for the needs of a child, such as the cost of braces or school uniforms. A permanent modification reflects a substantial change in the needs of a child. For example, if a child has special needs, the associated expenses would most likely increase permanently.

Child support obligations can be emotionally and financially taxing on families and children. Child support modification is necessary in many cases to maintain a balance between the two households. Once an initial support order is in place, people's lives often change, sometimes for the better. As such, it is often necessary to modify a child support order.

Edited by Jennifer Wolf.