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Child Support Modification FAQ

The existing child support order seems really unfair to me - can I change it? If so, how ?

A child support order is a judicial order. This means that in order for any of the terms to be modified, a judge must approve an agreement or change the original order. Even if you and the child's other parent have agreed upon a modification of child support on your own, you still must go before a judge before the child support order can be changed.

If, as it often happens, you and the child's other parent cannot agree on child support, you have to request a hearing in front of a judge where you will both be allowed to make arguments about your proposed modification of child support. In general, family law does not allow for judicial modification of child support unless one parent or the other can show a change in their circumstances that necessitates the modification. Divorce can be a messy ordeal, and judges take great care to ensure that children aren't harmed by the process. This is why the law favors keeping child support orders stable and does not allow modification at a whim.

Even so, modifications are granted on occasion and these changes can either be permanent or temporary, depending on the circumstances. Temporary modifications of child support can be granted due to temporary situationa such as a child's medical emergency, the temporary loss of employment by one parent, or a medical emergency of one parent. A temporary modification of child support can also be associated with a temporary change of child custody if one parent must be in the hospital for an extended period.

A permanent modification of child support arrangements is generally granted when one parent's position changes in a permanent manner. For instance, if one parent remarries, this increases his or her respective income which could in turn increase his or her monthly child support payments. Other examples of situations that could result in permanent modification of child support orders include changes in family law regarding child support, a permanent disability of one parent, the needs of the child, or a job change of one parent.

Is there a way to modify my child support order without going before a judge?

There is. 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. If a COLA clause is included in your child support order, you do not need to go before a judge in order to modify the payment amount based on an increase or decrease in the cost of living.

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