Can I Change How Much I Pay in Child Support?
You may want to change the amount you pay in child support for a variety of reasons. Your life circumstances changed. You experienced a job change, you had another child, or you have had more expenses than you initially anticipated. Perhaps your child support wasn’t even calculated correctly in the first place, but you didn’t know what your options were or how to reach a better agreement with your child’s other parent.
Can you change it?
The good news is, your child support arrangement probably isn’t set in stone. Filing a modification case can help you change your current child support arrangement, including creating an agreement that fits your new circumstances.
When Can You File a Modification Case?
You can file a modification case when one or both parents experience a major change in life circumstances that change the amount of support owed by the parent making the payments. Potential life changes may include:
A Change in Your Income
If you have faced a significant income change–job loss, or a transfer to a position where you make significantly less money, for example–it may alter the amount of child support you owe. Likewise, if you have seen a significant increase in your income, you may need to modify your child support arrangement to fit your new income.
It’s not just the income of the spouse paying child support that can change the balance of the funds owed, either. In some cases, the parent receiving support may have a notable increase or decrease in income, which can alter the amount needed to provide for the child and the balance that the parent paying support must pay.
A Change in the Marital Status of the Parent Receiving Support
Sometimes, your child support arrangement may include the assumption that the parent receiving support does not have adequate income to provide for the child or children alone. If that spouse gets married, it could change the amount of support owed.
A Change in Expenses Paid by the Parent Providing Support
Sometimes, the parent providing support may take on direct expenses related to the child or children’s care. Most notably, that parent may take on paying for medical care or education expenses not included by the initial child support arrangement. In some cases, these added expenses can change how much support the parent has to pay.
The Court Issues a New Child Support Agreement
Sometimes, a second child support agreement issued by the court can invalidate the current order and change the amount you’re expected to pay in child support. However, you may still need to file a modification to your original document.
Child Custody Changes
Sometimes, you may need to change your current custody arrangement. The parent with primary custody may no longer be able to take care of the child due to changing financial circumstances or work requirements, or the child may simply decide that they want to move in with the other parent. As the balance of time the child spends with the noncustodial parent changes, especially if the child goes to live full-time with a parent who previously kept the child only part of the time, it could dramatically alter the balance of child support owed. If child custody changes, you may want to legally modify your custody arrangement along with your child support agreement.
How to Modify Your Child Support Arrangement
If you need to modify your child support arrangement, start by talking to an experienced attorney, who can provide you with the information you need about whether you have grounds to modify your current support agreement. For example, if you know your income has changed, but not whether it has changed sufficiently to mandate a change in the child support you have to pay, an attorney can help advise you about what comes next.
Once you’ve established that you have grounds to modify your child support agreement:
1. Fill out the modification petition for the court.
On the modification petition, you will need to explain why you believe that you have grounds for modification: a change in income status, for example, or a change in the child custody agreement. You will need to provide evidence of this change in income, including paycheck stubs or income tax statements that show the alteration in your income. If you have lost your job, you may need to show evidence of unemployment payments or your termination paperwork.
2. Notify the child’s other parent about your intent to modify the child support agreement.
Sometimes, the other parent may agree to the modification without contesting it: most often because you have faced a significant loss of income or the other parent has gotten married, changing your child support obligations. If you can agree on a modified arrangement, you can file an uncontested modification agreement: one that you both agree represents the best interests of the child and of both parties. Typically, the courts will approve these agreements quickly, allowing you to change the child support you owe accordingly.
If you cannot reach an agreement or the other parent contests the agreement, you may need to file a contested modification petition.
3. Go to mediation.
If you have to file a contested modification petition to change the child support you must pay, you will start with a mediation appointment, where you will attempt to reach an agreement with the child’s other parent regarding the child support you owe. In mediation, you will have the opportunity to sit down with an unbiased representative, who can help both parties understand their legal rights and how much support you really owe. As a result, you can often reach an agreement that fits both your needs.
4. Go to court.
If you cannot reach an agreement together, you may have to go before a judge to present your requested modifications and the evidence about why you feel the child support agreement needs to be modified. The judge will then make a decision about your future agreement.
Do you need to modify your child support agreement? Betsy A. Fischer, LLC can help. Contact me today at 504-780-8232 to learn more about how to modify your child support arrangement after a change in your initial status.