As a family law attorney, I understand that life circumstances can change unexpectedly. I also understand that these changes can drastically impact the financial dynamics of families. One area where this change often manifests is in child support arrangements. Whether due to a job loss, a significant increase in income, or changes in the needs of the child, a child support order may no longer be workable for a party. When these situations arise, seeking a modification of child support is likely become necessary to ensure the continued well-being of everyone involved.

As we’ve previously discussed, modifications are legal adjustments to the current orders of the court. They are triggered by a material and substantial change in circumstances of the child and/or the parties affected by the order. When the court makes a ruling in a case involving children there is usually a specific amount of child support in the order. When a situation arises where either the obligor (the parent that pays) cannot pay or the obligee (the parent who receives payment) requires more money, a modification is the appropriate remedy. The important note is that a modification for child support can be initiated by either parent when there is a material and substantial change in circumstances that warrants a review of the existing support agreement. However, just because a modification is requested does not mean it is automatically granted.

The most common reasons for seeking a modification of child support include changes in income, changes in custody arrangements, changes in the child’s needs, or changes in the cost of living. It will be the burden of the party requesting the modification to prove the change in circumstance is enough to warrant the increase, decrease, or flip of the child support obligation. For example, if the paying parent experiences a significant decrease in income due to job loss or medical issues, they may petition the court for a reduction in child support payments. Conversely, if the custodial parent’s income increases substantially, the receiving parent may seek a modification to increase the support amount accordingly. Or if it is a full blown modification for custody, then the parent requesting to be the new primary parent can request that the child support obligation shift to the other parent.

As with any case, it’s essential to provide evidence supporting the change in circumstances. This may include recent pay stubs, tax returns, medical records, or documentation of changes in the child’s expenses. The simple truth is if you can’t prove the need for a modification, the court isn’t likely to grant it.

Lastly, It’s important to emphasize that child support modifications must be approved by the court to be legally enforceable. Until a new court order is issued, the existing child support agreement remains in effect, and failure to comply with it can result in legal consequences. Therefore, it’s crucial to continue making payments according to the existing order until a modification is approved. Timing is also a critical factor when seeking a child support modification. Changes in circumstances should be reported to the court as soon as possible to avoid accruing unpaid child support obligations. Do not cease payments before a new court order is in place. Doing so can potentially lead to you being held in contempt of court.