How to Change or Modify a Child Support Order
After a judge has made a child support order you may decide that you want to change the order. This is possible as long as you can prove that there has been a “change of circumstances” since the original or most recent child support order was determined. Many situations may arise that lead to a need for a change in the child support order. These include income changes for either parent such as job loss, incarceration, or a change in the child’s needs. The following is information and advice regarding how to go about changing or modifying a child support order. Procedures may vary in different courts, so you should always seek legal counsel before proceeding.
In some cases, both parents can agree upon changes needed for the child support order. If this is so, they can write up a new agreement to be viewed by the judge. The judge must sign this agreement in order for it to be official and legal. Make sure you get everything in writing incase the other parent changes his or her mind. You always need to cover your bases.
If an agreement cannot be made before both parents, one of the parents may choose to file for a change with the courts as soon as possible. This is called filing for a modification. Again, the judge must sign for any change or modification. Until the judge signs, the child support order will remain the same. This will likely require a court hearing where you can argue your case. You must be able to show or prove a change has occurred that requires a modification to the order.
There are two kinds of modifications to be aware of. Some are temporary modifications that arise during situations such as a child’s health emergency or a temporary or short-term inability for one parent to pay. Permanent modifications may be approved for long term situations such as the loss of a job, a parent remarrying, child support laws changing, or if the child’s needs change drastically.
If you are the spouse responsible for paying child support, you may have an urgent need to change the order. Don’t waste time. Be proactive about the situation. If, for example, you have lost your job, you may not be able to afford the originally agreed upon child support amount anymore. If you do not make a payment and have not changed the order, you are still responsible. Whether your spouse is or is not in agreement, be sure to file the motion quickly and get it in writing so that you aren’t putting yourself in a dangerous legal situation.
You also may want to look into a COLA clause. These adjust based on the annual cost of living and will change automatically from year to year based on an economic indicator. This way you will not have to file for an order change as frequently. If you don’t have a COLA clause yet, look into it as soon as you can.
Remember to file any changes as soon as possible. Delaying will only complicate the situation. Get everything in writing so that you don’t have to worry about another party’s “change of heart”. Always be sure to work with a child support attorney before proceeding with any legal decisions. They possess the knowledge and expertise to help you approach the situation best and should always be consulted first. Legal counsel will ensure that you handle the process appropriately and efficiently.