When life circumstances change, you may find yourself needing to modify child support. However, you can't just pay less or demand more. You'll need to follow specific steps to change the amount of child support.
There are two times that you can seek a modification of child support.
First, when both you and the other parent are on good terms, and agree that there should be a change. If you can come to a mutual agreement and present it to the court, the court may approve the change.
Second, when there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the other parent does not wish to agree to a change, you can pursue a modification in court.
In both cases, the court will determine its approval or rejection of the modification based on the best interests of the child. The court will take into account almost anything that has an effect on the child. This includes the child’s health, the child’s special needs, and other considerations. The child’s safety and happiness is the ultimate consideration when determining what is in their best interest.
If you and the other parent are on good terms, or if you think they're willing to work with you, you can try to come to a mutual agreement about the child support modification. If you come to an agreement, you must present a written, signed agreement to the court for approval. The court will likely approve the agreement so long as it follows the law and is in the best interests of the child.
When either parent experiences a change in circumstances, they can request modification of child support from the court. You must first request a court hearing, and in that request you must argue that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.”
While the definition of a “substantial change” can vary depending on the state, it usually means that there has been a significant change in the medical needs of the child or of the parent. Examples include an illness, disability, or a significant percentage change in either parent’s income.
Typical life changes will not always constitute a substantial change. You will probably won't get a modification of child support if the other spouse receives a slight raise at their job, or if there has only been a slight change in the child's needs. It needs to be a life-altering change.
For example, if you are the one receiving child support, you can request an increase if the other parent gets a new job with a significantly higher salary. Or, if you are the one paying child support, you can request a decrease if you have been diagnosed with an illness or disability that prohibits you from working.
Importantly, some modifications can be temporary if the circumstances are temporary, or can be permanent if the change is permanent.
If you wish to seek a child support modification, you should act quickly. Take steps to come to agreement with the other parent, or begin preparations to argue for a modification in court. You want to get the modification done as soon as possible so that you can begin paying or receiving the proper amount.
Consulting a lawyer is wise because they can help with the modification request, with negotiations, and with ensuring that everything you need for the modification is in order.