Anyone under an obligation to pay child support or maintenance has probably heard the phrase “substantial change in circumstances.” This is the standard typically required to get a modification of support or maintenance unless the order is able to be reviewed for other reasons, such as a certain amount of time that has passed since the last order requiring the support.  Although used frequently, it can be difficult to pin down what exactly constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances” for the purpose of a support modification.  What seems substantial to you may not be substantial in the eyes of the court.

When a party asks to modify support based on a substantial change in circumstances, courts are looking to see if there is an increased or decreased ability of the supporting party to pay since the previous order has been entered.[1]  It is the responsibility of the party asking to modify the support obligation to point to specific facts that justify the modification. While it can be hard to determine exactly what a court will consider a substantial change, there are some common situations that can give guidance.

One of the most common situations where someone will claim a substantial change of circumstances is when one party has had a change at work. Someone may lose their job or take a position making more money.  Court have frequently considered this to be a substantial change in circumstances justifying the modification of a support obligation.  However, any change must be made in good faith.[2]This means that if someone voluntarily reduces their income by switching jobs, the court is unlikely to modify the support obligation.

Another common change in circumstances is when a child turns 18.  Once a child turns 18, they have reached the age of majority and child support typically ceases as long as that child has graduated from high school.  However, it is possible to file for what is known as “post-minority support” for the child reaching the age of 18.  This means that even if you have a child who is over 18 and has graduated high school, which would typically be considered a substantial change in circumstances, the court may still order that support be paid.

Courts have also justified modification of a support obligation due to the increased needs of a child.  This can occur due to the child growing older and participating in more school and extracurricular events or if the child develops an illness or serious medical issues which require additional support to address.

These are just some of the circumstances that may constitute a substantial change in circumstances.  If you have further questions about modifications of child support or maintenance, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656.

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[1]In re Marriage of Hughes, 322 Ill. App. 3d 815, 751 N.E.2d 23, 255 Ill.Dec. 929 (Ill. App., 2001)

[2]750 ILCS 5/510 (a-5)(1)