Modifying Child Support

Child support is a court-ordered amount that a non-custodial parent must pay to cover a certain amount of a child's expenses, such as housing, food, clothing, education and so forth. Children are entitled to be supported by their parents in the same way they would have been had the parents not separated, and generally both parents are expected to support their children before and after a divorce. However, state laws vary significantly with respect to calculating child support and how it is regulated. Therefore, a lawyer who specializes in family law in your state will be best placed to assist you in seeking a modification of child support.

Calculating Child Support Amounts

Most states calculate the amount of child support to be paid using a two-pronged child support calculator approach that takes into account both the financial means of the parents and the needs of the child. While child support payments may be changed as needed at least until the child reaches of the age of 18, court orders on child support can be modified only by subsequent court orders. Therefore, it is best to seek the assistance of a qualified lawyer for child custody and support if you feel a change in the amount of child support is warranted.Many times the attorney can come up with a child support worksheet and a child support chart to help you figure out what you are justly owed.

Modifications to child support orders generally occur when real, significant and unexpected changes in either the financial circumstances of the parents or the needs of the child would result in an adjustment of at least 10 percent in the amount of child support established under an existing court order and this is also relevant for child support for joint custody.

Change of Financial Circumstance

A typical change of circumstance would be a substantial increase in one parent's income. For example, if a parent receives a higher paying job, a substantial promotion, or an inheritance, he or she could be expected to pay a new child support cost which will be higher. Changes in a child's expenses, such as high medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance, might necessitate a modification of child support. Expenses related to childcare, summer camps or private schools might also be a basis for seeking higher support levels, especially if private schools or summer camps were part of the family's lifestyle before the separation or divorce custody child support.

Modifications may be warranted if either parent remarries and the other parent files a petition child support case. This may be particularly true if the new spouse's income significantly increases the household income.

Change in Parenting Plan

Changes in the parenting plan may also necessitate modifications in child support. For example, if a child goes to live with the non-custodial parent on a long-term basis, it will cost that parent more money to see to the child's care. Therefore, he or she may seek a downward modification in the child support agreement.

Adjustments for Involuntary Loss of Income

Downward adjustments may also be necessary if one parent experiences an involuntary loss of employment or becomes disabled. In this respect, however, it should be noted that voluntarily quitting a job cannot be used to justify a reduction in child support. Similarly, temporary periods of unemployment for parents who are seasonally employed are generally not considered unexpected, especially if the nature of this employment was taken into consideration when the amount of child support was originally determined.

Frequency of Modifications

Both parents have the ability to seek modifications to child support orders as many times as may be necessary until the child reaches the age of 18, or beyond in some states that provide for support for college expenses. However, the court cannot change the support order unless or until it is asked to do so in writing. In granting a modification, a court may change the amount of support back to the date on which the Petition to Modify was filed, but it cannot make a change effective prior to that date. Therefore, if you feel your current support order is not appropriate, it is important to file for a modification as soon as possible.

Avoid Informal Agreements

One of the most frequent mistakes people make is to rely on informal agreements concerning the amount of child support to be paid. For example, if the parent who is obligated to pay child support gets laid off or experiences temporary financial difficulties, the custodial parent may agree informally to reduce the amount of child support. Later, if the parents have a disagreement, the parent entitled to support can demand that the original child support order be enforced. In such cases, the court has to enforce the child support order as written, regardless of the informal agreement, and order repayment of all back support.

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