If there’s a significant change in your situation, like a loss of a job or a new child, you may be able to get your child support payments modified. This can be done at little or no cost through legal aid services.
If you don’t have a lawyer, you can usually file your own modification petition at the court clerk’s office or self-help desk. You’ll need to provide financial affidavits and other supporting documentation.
1. You File a Petition
If you need to modify your child support payments, the first step is to file a petition. You can get the form and instructions from your state government or local family court.
You can also contact an attorney to draft the petition on your behalf. An experienced New York family law lawyer can assist you with your case and answer any questions you might have.
Modifying a child support order depends on whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was issued. This could mean a significant increase or decrease in income, a job loss, a change in child custody, or a change in the cost of living.
For example, a noncustodial parent can request a modification of child support if they have lost their job due to disability. However, the parent must meet a few conditions to get the court to modify the support amount:
2. The Court Schedules a Hearing
If you want to modify your child support payments, the court will schedule a hearing for you to argue the case. The judge will hear evidence from both of you and then decide whether to change the child support order.
In Maryland, a change in one parent’s income can qualify as a material change of circumstances that must be considered when the court considers a modification. The change must be substantial enough to justify changing the child support obligation amount.
Once the court has received a petition to modify the support order, it will serve the other party with a summons and the date of the hearing. The party that wants to modify the support must file documents proving their current financial status, including a statement of reasons for the request.
3. The Judge Decides
Once a child support order is made, it’s up to the judge to decide whether and how to modify it. Typically, the court will only modify the amount of child support when there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
That can include changes in a parent’s income, costs of living or other circumstances. Sometimes, however, the mere passage of time can be enough to bring about a modification.
Unemployment is another common reason for modifying child support payments. It’s often difficult for an unemployed parent to prove that his or her employment loss will be permanent, but if the judge believes that it is, then the court may consider this fact in a modification hearing.
If the changes to your circumstances are significant, then it’s important to act promptly and file a petition for a child support modification as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could be accused of reneging on your payment obligations, and that can lead to a myriad of collection tools being put into play by the state.
4. The Court Orders the Change
A court may order a change in child support payments when it finds that the circumstances of a party have changed enough to warrant a modification. This can be based on changes in income levels, the needs of the children, or other factors.
Some states automatically provide cost-of-living adjustments in child support orders every couple years. Other states allow parents to ask for a modification based on a significant increase in the cost of living.
These increased expenses may include a child’s medical care (copays, deductibles, prescriptions, dental braces, eyeglasses), childcare services, and education expenses. Typically, a parent seeking a modification must submit current financial information and supporting documentation to the court.
Sometimes, a judge will not grant a modification. This is because changing the amount of child support can be difficult and time-consuming. Also, the judge may want to keep a parent’s income at a level that meets the state’s guidelines.