Child support payments are based on each parent's current income, earning potential, housing situation, and of course the child's specific financial needs. But since situations can change at a moment's notice -- such as job loss, or even a promotion -- child support modification is always an option. The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the modification of a child support order.
Q: The existing child support order seems really unfair to me, can I change it?
Yes, it’s possible to change child support orders. A child support order is a court order. This means for any of the terms to be modified, a judge must approve an agreement or change the original order.
Q: How do I change my child support order?
You must request a modification from the same court that granted the child support order, using the procedures required in your state. 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. For child modification tips, see this article. If you want help requesting a modification, consult with a qualified child support attorney.
If, as it often happens, you and your child's other parent can’t 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 doesn’t allow for child support modification unless at least one parent can show a change in his or her circumstances that makes the modification necessary.
Unfortunately, divorce can be a messy ordeal. Judges take great care to ensure that the divorce process doesn’t harm the children. This is why the law favors keeping child support orders stable and doesn't allow modification at a whim.
Q: I have a short-term emergency, can I change the child support order temporarily?
Yes, modifications can either be permanent or temporary, depending on the circumstances. Temporary modifications of child support can be granted due to temporary situations 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.
Q: What types of circumstances would result in a permanent child support order modification?
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.
Q: Is there a way to modify my child support order without going before a judge?
Yes, 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, 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.
Q: How can I find experienced, local professional help with my child support case?
Quality legal advice and representation generally comes at a cost, but that expertise typically saves you money -- while providing peace of mind -- in the long-run. And when it comes to the well-being of your child, it's a worthwhile investment to say the least. Check FindLaw's directory of child support attorneys by state, city, or metropolitan area.