Getting the Court to Change Your Child Support Obligations
Courts will modify child support orders for a number of reasons and these changes can be temporary or permanent.
In the event of a financial hardship suffered by the payer, for example, the court may agree to temporarily reduce or suspend payments until the payer is financially back on his or her feet.
Other reasons for a temporary reduction or increase could include a medical emergency, illness or injury of the child, a medical emergency, illness or injury of the paying parent or a financial setback suffered by the recipient parent.
Permanent modifications require a substantial change in long-term circumstances of either the paying parent, the recipient parent or the child. These could include:
- A medical condition suffered by the child that requires a different level of care
- A permanent disability suferred by either the recipient parent or the paying parent
- A considerable change in income by either parent
- Changes in child-rearing costs such as daycare increases or decreases or health insurance increases or decreases
- Increase in the age of the child (i.e. it costs more to raise a 14 year old than a 3 year old)
- An increase in the cost of living
The easiest way to get a modification is to discuss the changes with your ex-spouse and come to a new agreement. This makes it much easier to get your modification approved. (It still must be approved by the court and the judge will have to issue a new order for the modification to be legally enforceable.)
If your ex-spouse doesn’t agree to the change, you’ll need to file a motion to modify and request a hearing where you can ask a judge to rule on your proposed modification. You’ll need to be able to prove whatever circumstances you’re claiming to support the modification so be sure to bring statements from your doctor, copies of unemployment filings, etc. to support your side of the story.
If your modification request is based solely on cost of living increases, you may want to request that the judge include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in your final order. Many judges do this anyway to eliminate the need for modification hearings based solely on an increase in the cost of living.
Some jurisdictions have a streamlined process for requesting a child support modification, making it simple to seek without the aid of an attorney. Others do not. You should ask a divorce lawyer in your area about the process in your particular state and locality.