You can request a child support modification by working out an agreement with the other parent. If possible, you could then file a petition that would modify an already-existing agreement. Here, you could make changes to child support payments, visitation rights, and other details. Yet, not every custodial case is straightforward. You may feel uncomfortable making a new arrangement with your co-parent. When that happens, you can partner with a family law attorney. They can assess your legal options and work toward a fair outcome.
What Is Child Support Modification?
Child support itself is an ongoing payment made by a non-custodial parent to assist with financially supporting their children. A lot of child support agreements get drawn up during divorce proceedings. There are several factors involved in determining how much child support a parent pays in certain states. Considerations the courts take when calculating child support include:
- Both parents’ incomes and expendable income
- Any extraordinary medical deductions
- Deductions for childcare
- Support for college
- The custodial arrangement itself
- The child’s age
In all states, the mother or father could have to pay child support. For instance, if a father has primary custody of his child, then the mother could make monthly payments. Ideally, both parents can agree to a financial arrangement without the court’s intervention. Yet, when this doesn’t happen, the courts can determine the child support agreement. A child support modification is when a change occurs to the original agreement. If there is any type of change in circumstances, parents can request a modification through the courts. Through the modification, the payments will either increase or decrease depending on the circumstances brought forward.
What Circumstances Warrant a Child Support Modification?
To modify child support, one or both parents must prove they have a change in circumstances. Changes in circumstances could include:
- One parent loses their job and can no longer afford to pay the amount of the current child support agreement.
- One of the parents relocates to a different state which could affect how often a child spends time with one parent.
- There is a change in the child’s financial needs. For instance, a child with special needs may need to enroll in an alternative education program.
Either parent can petition to change the child support agreement regardless of if they are the payor or the payee.
Steps to Take to Request a Child Support Modification
There are several steps involved in requesting a child support modification. It could benefit you to partner with a family law attorney in this matter; doing so could streamline the legal process and avoid any disputes. A lawyer could guide you through these steps:
- Step 1: Fill out a modification petition for support. Your attorney can send this document to the proper family court in your state. You’ll need to include basic information in this document, which an attorney can help with.
- Step 2: Bring the petition to the County Clerk’s office. At this time, you will also have to pay the filing fee and provide proof that your circumstances have changed.
- Step 3: You will find out the court date. Once you put the request in, you and the other parent will receive information about the court hearing, such as the time and place.
- Step 4: From here, you and the other parent will attend the court hearing to explain your circumstances and why you need a child support modification. An attorney can represent you during this hearing to explain your or the other parent’s change in circumstances.
After the hearing, the judge can make a decision. In some cases, this takes time for the judge to make a decision. Typically, it takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to implement a new agreement. Avoiding courtroom disputes can give parents more control over custodial arrangements and child support. Once a case goes to court, the outcome is now in the judge’s hands.
How to Prepare for a Child Support Modification Hearing
Before a child support modification hearing, you must prepare. This way, you can show the judge that the modification is necessary to promote your and your child’s well-being. Also, without proper preparation, you might not have the right documentation needed to prove your change in circumstances. Ways to prepare for a child support modification hearing include:
Bringing Evidence of Your Income
Your wage statements paint a picture of your financial circumstances. For example, it can show that you cannot continue making payments in the same capacity. These documents may include:
- Your W2
- Current pay stubs
- Your most recent tax return
- Childcare expenses
- Any mortgage statements or rent receipts
This information also allows the judge to make a fair ruling regarding your child support modification request.
Understanding Your Child’s Needs
If you have primary custody of your child, and you’re requesting an increase in child support payments, you should clearly explain why. In court, this may involve using billing statements and receipts to show your out-of-pocket expenses. It also may require explaining your financial situation to the judge, such as whether you must apply for public assistance. Knowing your child’s financial needs shows the court that you’re acting in your family’s best interest. It also prevents you from making any mistakes that could warrant another hearing.
Checking All Paperwork for Completion and Accuracy
Parents seldom think about the bureaucratic side of custodial agreements. Yet, this element plays a critical role in child support modification cases. By disclosing incorrect information, you risk getting an unfair outcome to your case. It could also drag out matters. Before submitting your petition or any applicable paperwork, make sure you check these items for completion and accuracy. That means including your current address, income, and contact information.
Clearing Time in Your Schedule
Child support modification meetings aren’t open-and-shut cases. Between arriving in court, going through security, and the hearing itself, it could take a few hours. You don’t want to seem rushed or inconvenienced by the meeting. Doing so could reflect poorly on you.
Child custodial cases can get heated. If you post anything online about your child’s parent, impeding court case, or other related matters, the court could use these posts against you. You want to show that this modification benefits your situation—and you’re not requesting more or less money out of spite.
Considering Legal Help
As you may already know, child custodial cases can get heated. Emotions can run high when your child’s future is at stake. Because of the legal, emotional, and technical details of these situations, you may consider partnering with a family law lawyer. They can manage your case’s details while you focus on what matters most: your child.
You Could Avoid Going to Court
Parents who fight over child support agreements only have to go to court if they cannot agree on the child support arrangements. There are other ways to come to an agreement, including:
- The parents agree on their own. If the parents are amicable, they could come up with a new child support agreement on their own. This is a preferable route in many cases, as it eliminates the possibility of tense courtroom battles.
- The parents go to mediation. Mediation is a great alternative to going to court. A mediator provides guidance on how to come to an agreement. They also help the parents to think about what is best for the child and their given circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support Modifications
You deserve answers to your questions, so you can make informed decisions regarding your child’s future. Some inquiries you may have about requesting child support modification include:
What if the Other Parent Does Not Pay Child Support?
If a parent refuses to pay child support:
- An attorney can write them a letter asking for support. If the non-compliant parents still refuses, they could face fines and other penalties.
- You could file a contempt action. An attorney can draw up the papers to file this action. If found in contempt of the court, the non-compliant parent could face serious penalties.
- You could request a child support modification. If the other parent cannot pay child support because they had a change in circumstances, a modification could make payments possible. For instance, a modification could decrease how much a parent must pay. It could also change how frequently a parent must make payments.
A family law attorney can explain other measures to hold a non-compliant parent to their obligations.
Are Child Support Modifications Temporary or Permanent?
Parents can create both temporary and permanent child support modifications. For instance, a parent may request a temporary modification if they needed a medical procedure that caused them to miss work. Another reason is if one parent loses their job and cannot afford the child support payments until they regain employment. Permanent child support modifications are for arrangements that seem like they will last for a long time. Such as, if one parent gets a higher-paying job, they might have to pay more in child support. Another example is if a parent moves out of state. Here, a permanent child support arrangement might come into play.
Can Parents Agree to a Modification on Their Own?
Yes, if both parents agree to the modification, they can submit their request to the courts for approval. For this to happen, the following must occur:
- The parents know their rights.
- The new agreement is in the best interest of the child.
- Neither of the parents receives public assistance and has not applied for it during the time of the modification request.
- No threats or intimidation attempts went into the modification order’s agreement.
A judge could approve a child support modification if they recognize the elements listed above. However, they will not approve a modified child support order if it’s not in the child’s best interest.
What if I Can No Longer Make My Current Child Support Payments?
There are several tips to follow when requesting a child support modification. To lower child support payments, the court must agree it is in the best interest of the child. In this circumstance, some of your options may include:
- Promptly requesting a modification: If you cannot pay child support, don’t let these lapsed payments accumulate. Instead, request a modification order as soon as you can. This prevents the court from finding you in contempt. It also reduces how much backpay you may owe later on.
- Continue making payments: As best as you can, continue making the child support payments. Until the courts approve the modification, you still have to pay the amount that is in the original child support agreement. If not, penalties could occur.
- Considering legal help. Paying child support shouldn’t threaten your financial stability. When you consult with a lawyer, they aim to make an agreement that benefits both you and your child.
Remember, not paying child support could result in consequences, including jail time and large fines. If you struggle to pay child support, adding fines to the equation can make things more difficult.
All 50 states have a method to modify the amount of child support based on child custody arrangements. The courts generally use the child custody agreement to determine child support. For instance, if a parent has primary custody of the child, the other parent could owe more in child support. If a child needs special accommodations or healthcare, this could also factor into the amount of support needed.
How Do I Enforce Child Support Payments?
Parents can ask the court system to enforce child support payments. If the other parent still does not pay child support, another thing you could do is contact an attorney. In many instances, after being contacted by an attorney, parents can come to agreements. If not, an attorney can guide your case to a fair outcome and seek a resolution.