Whether you pay or receive child support, changes in circumstances might lead you to seek a modification of child support. A modification can increase or decrease the amount of child support, or extend or shorten child support payments. There are two ways you can pursue a modification. You can make an agreement with the other parent and then seek court approval, or you can petition the court for a modification of child support.
If you would rather not argue for a child support modification in court, you can try to work with the other parent to to come to an agreement on how the child support amount should be changed. You can do this informally, or through alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration. Alternative dispute resolution is a more formal, out of court process where a neutral third party can help you and the other parent to negotiate. In mediation, the parents make the ultimate decision. In arbitration, which is less common for family matters, the arbitrator makes the decision after hearing each side’s arguments.
If you reach an agreement with the other parent, it must be in writing, signed by both parties, and approved by the court. To get court approval, you must show it to the judge in your case. The judge will typically ensure that each party understands the agreement, that the agreement was fairly negotiated, and that the terms of the agreement follow state laws and guidelines. Once the court approves the agreement, it becomes a legally binding court order. This means that either party can face legal consequences if they violate the agreement.
To petition for a modification of child support in court, you must first request a hearing in front of the judge. In your request, you must argue that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A “substantial change in circumstances” can mean a change in the child’s medical needs or the parent’s medical situation, an increase or decrease in parental income, or a change in the child’s residence. Different states have their own rules for what they consider a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Whether or not the court grants a temporary change in support or a permanent change in support depends on the changes in circumstances. For example, if the child has a brief medical emergency, this would generally result in a temporary change in support. But if a parent becomes permanently disabled and is unable to work, this could cause a permanent change in support.
An attorney can be beneficial in child support modification cases because they can tailor their advice to your specific case and personal situation. The laws about child support can also vary widely from state to state, so consulting an attorney can help you understand the rules in your particular state.