Once a child support order or agreement is in place, the payment amount may be increased or decreased under certain circumstances. If a parent's earning ability or a child's financial needs have changed - that could conceivably be enough to trigger a modification. The following resources provide child support modification tips, reasons to modify a child support order, and related information.
What if I Can't Make my Child Support Payments?
Keep making your child support payments as best you can. To the maximum extent possible, keep making the child support payments required under the current child support order. The existing child support order remains in effect unless and until the court issues a new child support order. Pay as much as you can and pay it in the manner specified by the child support order. Not putting forth your best effort to pay will hurt your argument that new circumstances (rather than lack of effort) require a new child support amount, and will cause unpaid child support to pile up.
Modifying Child Support Without Going to Court
It is possible to have your child support order modified without having to go to court--but only in very limited circumstances. Some judges include a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) clause in all of the child support orders they issue. These clauses make it so the child support payments change each year in accord with the increase or decrease of the annual cost of living. This amount is normally determined by an economic indicator, like the Consumer Price Index. If a COLA clause is included in your child support order, you don’t need to go before a judge in order to modify the payment amount based on an increase or decrease in the cost of living.
Make Sure You File With the Right Court
File your request for child support modification with the appropriate court. You should file it with the court which issued the child support order currently in place. Whether both parents agree to a modification, or one parent wants the court to order a child support modification, you will need a new child support order issued by the appropriate court for changed child support requirements to take effect. The papers you file with the court also need to be served on the other parent.
A Family Law Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding modification of child support is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. Technically speaking, you do not have to have a lawyer when filing a child support modification action. Having representation is highly recommended, however, when your case is complicated or highly contentious (i.e., you have a big fight on your hands), or when the other side has an attorney. If the parties are in complete agreement, you could always have an attorney review your paperwork (as opposed to representing you throughout the matter).