Can I Change a Child Support Order After Changing Jobs?

If you are a non-custodial parent and have changed jobs, the amount of child support you are required to pay does not automatically change to reflect your new salary. However, you may petition the court to change a child support order after transitioning to a new job, particularly if you can no longer afford the payments due to a decrease in pay. Similarly, the custodial parent may seek modification for additional child support if the non-custodial parent earns substantially higher wages from a new job.

Changing the amount or terms of court-ordered child support is referred to as "child support modification." Courts consider a variety of facts before approving a modification request and typically decide whether the new job (or other determining factors) can be considered a "substantial change in circumstances." Furthermore, parents who agree on the terms of a child support modification may do so with a judge's approval. Typically that is not a problem, as long as the agreed-upon amount is within state guidelines.

See Child Support Modification for additional information.

Reasons to Modify a Support Order

A change in income, most often based on a change in the non-custodial parent's employment, is one of several reasons why one or both parents may seek to change a child support order. A modification may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the particular circumstances underlying the request. A court may temporarily modify an order of child support to accommodate a recipient child's medical emergency or a temporary financial hardship of either one of the parents. Whatever the reason for modification, the court must always consider the needs of the child.

Reasons for modifying a child support order include the following:

  • A significant change in the child's needs
  • Increased cost of living
  • Either parent has been incarcerated
  • Either parent becomes unemployed or experiences a change in income
  • Family income increases significantly after either parent remarries
  • A parent becomes disabled, decreasing his or her employment prospects, or otherwise constraining resources
  • There is a change in child support laws

How to Modify a Support Order

If you have a new job that pays less than what you earned when child support was ordered, and are unable to make a payment, it is important to act as quickly as possible. Child support modifications are not retroactive, which means that you are responsible for the originally ordered amount until a modification is approved by the court. Even if your spouse verbally agrees to a lower amount or different terms, it will not carry the force of law unless the agreement is in writing, signed by both parties, and approved by the court.

Requests for child support modification are handled by state courts, and the process is generally similar for all jurisdictions. The parent requesting the modification must file a motion with the court that issued the original order or, if an agreement is reached between the two parents, it must be put in writing and signed by a judge.

See Child Support Forms by State and look for forms with "modify" or "modification" in the title for more information.

New Job? Ask an Attorney About Changing Your Child Support Order

Since your income largely determines the amount of child support you are required to pay the custodial parent, a change in employment may require a modification of that support. But you have to take action as soon as possible, since the support amount ordered by the court stands regardless of your actual take-home pay. Have a family law attorney help you with this often-complex process.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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