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The economic downturn over the past two to three years led to a great rise in litigation in Family Court. In many cases, the loss of a job or the closure of a family-owned business caused a legitimate reason for the payors of child support to receive a reduction in their child support obligation. Unfortunately, however, many payors of child support have filed motions to reduce their obligations alleging that the negative impact of the downturn of the economy should result in a reduction of their child support obligation. This group of recession “profiteers" use economic tales of a doom and gloom and creative accounting to deceive the Court into believing that their income has been eliminated by the downturn in the economy.
Some Judges are more easily fooled than others. In order to prevent injustice, any child support recipient must be aware of the exact status of the law and be diligent in their investigation of the claims made by the Payor seeking a reduction in child support. Usually a Court will allow a child support recipient to conduct some measure of discovery before a final order reducing child support is entered. Discovery, however, can sometimes be costly. Luckily, the nominal cost to serve a Subpoena to the personal and business bank accounts of the Payor can often times yield positive results. Unfortunately, courts seldom punish people for making material misrepresentations on their Financial Disclosure Forms making it very easy for a child support payor to misrepresent the actual stream of income received.
Whereas discovery reveals the truth, the appropriate argument can preclude a reduction of child support. The Nevada Supreme Court in Rivero v. Rivero, 216 P.3d 213 (Rivero II) added a new requirement to the previous Nevada ‘changed circumstances’ standard. Prior to Rivero II, the party seeking a reduction in child support would only have to demonstrate a change in financial circumstances to modify child support.
The Court in Rivero held as follows:
NRS 125B.145(4) expressly states that the District Court may review a child support order “at any time on the basis of changed circumstances." The Court further required that the new child support order must be supported by factual findings that a change in support is in the child’s best interest and the modification or adjustment of the award must comply with the requirements of NRS 125B.070 and NRS 125B.080.
Based upon Rivero II, even if a motion to reduce child support filed by a payor is supported by some factual evidence that there has been a change in the Payor’s financial circumstances, the Court can deny the change and enter specific findings that reducing child support is not in the best interest of the child(ren). In cases where the Financial Disclosure Form says one thing and there is limited other evidentiary back-up for the changed circumstances, it is important to argue that a reduction in child support is not in the best interest of the child(ren). If the lifestyle of the payor does not seem affected by the alleged downturn in the economy resulting in the change of circumstances, the argument that a modification is not in the best interest of the child(ren) becomes even more compelling.
Knowing the law and knowing where to look for information to disprove that which might otherwise be a false Financial Disclosure Form are crucial to ensure that the child(ren) are not prejudiced by creative accounting or motions filed solely of the general perception that the economy is bad.