How Can We Help?
As parents across the country find themselves unable to meet their existing support obligations in the current economic climate, courts have faced a rush of child support modification requests.
With national unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, more people are being forced to take unpaid time off, having their hours cut or losing their jobs altogether.
With finances growing increasingly tight, some parents are finding it impossible to care for their children on the amount of support they receive each month. Other parents are finding it equally difficult to keep up with their support obligations on decreased or non-existent incomes. Applying for a child support modification is one way parents may be able to alleviate some of their financial stresses.
A common standard for modification of child support is a substantial change in circumstances. That usually refers to a change in income of the parent who is supposed to pay support. If the parent who is obliged to pay support suffers a loss of income, that could be a basis for reducing support; conversely, if the parent’s income increases, that could be a basis for increasing support.
Changes in the circumstances of the child can also be a reason for modifying support. If the child has significant new expenses such as orthodonture, special classes, or health needs that are not covered by insurance, that too can be a reason for increasing support.
Significant changes in the income of the parent seeking support can also be a basis for modification. If the custodial parent’s income drops (particularly through no fault of the custodial parent), that might be a basis for increasing support. If the custodial parent’s income increases, that might be basis for reducing support from the noncustodial parent.
In some states, support orders may be reviewed automatically every few years to set support consistent with the parents’ current income and the support guidelines.
If the parent who is supposed to pay support has a major drop in income (such as through loss of a job) and the income is not likely to be replaced soon, the parent should promptly go to court to seek modification of child support.
The obligation to pay support at the designated amount continues until a court orders otherwise. A court’s order for child support generally is effective for future support payments only. Normally, a court cannot retroactively modify support payments, even if the parent who was supposed to pay had a good reason for not making full payments.
Act Promptly if Your Income Falls
When a parent loses a job or experiences a financial setback, one of the last things the parent may want to do is incur more expenses by hiring an attorney to try to reduce support. But if the parent has a good reason to reduce support, the money is well spent since the support obligation will continue at the original amount until the parent seeks a modification.