Our futures are filled with uncertainty, especially when it comes to our financial situations. Whenever a child support obligation is involved, many support-paying parents worry about his or her ability to continue making payments.
Fortunately, the Courts understand that money and finances cannot be predicted or guaranteed. So, child support obligations can be modified if parents prove that there has been a substantial change to his or her or the child’s circumstances since entry of the previous support orders.
Substantially Changed Circumstances
There are many changes that might be considered so substantial that a modification of the support obligation is necessary. Examples of some of those changes are as follows: an increase in either parent’s income; a decrease in either parent’s income through no fault of his or her own; passage of time since entry of a previous support order; the children growing older; the children’s interests or expenses shifting; and so forth.
As you may see, “substantial changes” are not limited just to changes in financial resources. You may have also picked up that a decrease in a support-paying parent’s income must be through no fault of his or her own. This means that the Court may not accept a voluntary decrease in income as an acceptable reason to modify a support obligation. Parents should not expect a modification if he or she voluntarily quits a job without having another job lined up, if he or she reduces his or her income without good reason for doing so, if he or she is terminated from employment for a fault-based reason; and otherwise.
On the other hand, the Court will be far more accepting if the reduction in income is not motivated by the parent’s own actions or choices. Acceptable causes for reduced incomes might be: work-force reductions; company lay-offs; elimination of positions; acceptance of a position with other benefits that will directly or indirectly trickle down to the child; etc.
Although no one can guarantee that any one change is substantial enough to convince the Court that modification is necessary, when there are several factors at play, it becomes a bit easier to successfully argue the need for a support modification.
The party looking to change the support amount is burdened with the task of proving his or her case. After notifying the other parent of the request that support be reviewed, the petitioning party must then convince the Judge that the change in circumstances is substantial.
Once the modification action is started, both parties have the right to review each other’s financial information. Tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, credit card statements, are all examples of financial information that might be relevant. These documents will help the parties determine whether the change in circumstances is “substantial” and if so, the amount of the potential new support obligation.
More often than not, proceedings to modify support take longer than many parents anticipate. Settlement or trial should only be anticipated after all financial information has been exchanged. Then, if the Court agrees that the modification is appropriate, the Judge will decide whether the modification will be made effective on that date or back to the date the modification request was filed. When making that determination, the Judge may consider the parties’ resources, why a modification is requested, the child(ren)’s standard of living, how much time each parent spends with the child, and so forth.
As you might have picked up, modifying a support obligation involves a process that can take time. In that time, the requesting party needs to build his or her case and convince the Court why a modification is needed. Since the entire process can take months, it is generally better for the request to be filed sooner than later.
If you think a modification of the support you are paying or receiving is needed, we are here to assist in every way possible! Contact us to schedule your free one-hour consultation now!