When a couple with children separates, one of the first and most important issues they should settle is child support ‒ that is, they need to agree on how much money is needed to take care of the costs associated with raising their children. Typically, the non-custodial parent (the parent with whom the children do not live most of the time) will be expected to contribute a certain amount toward the children’s upbringing. However, events may dictate a change in support payments: a parent may lose a job; a child’s needs, or custodial arrangements, may have changed. The parents may informally alter their agreement, but in case of dispute, it is best to record any changes. In that situation, the parent who wishes to change a support obligation should request a formal modification of the support order.
The process for receiving such a modification varies from state to state, but typically, you must request a modification from the same court that handed down the initial support order. If you and your former partner cannot agree on the terms of the modification, the court may hold a hearing at which you present evidence in support of the modification. A modification in child support may be a long-term or a short-term change. For instance, a child support agreement may be subject to short-term modification if a child suffers an illness or injury that requires hospitalization or extensive treatment. Changes in family circumstances may or may not warrant a change in child support arrangements. If a non-custodial parent has another child, that event might validate a reduction in child support payments; on the other hand, the custodial parent’s remarriage might not.
When considering if or when to modify child support payments, consult your state’s law for the appropriate procedure, and consider using an attorney to help you through the process.
Kathleen Davies is a Staff Writer for GetLegal.com. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and has practiced law and taught legal writing and advocacy.