The rising cost of everyday living is no more apparent than when raising children. For divorced parents where one parent is the residential parent providing for all of the child's basic needs, it can be an enormous burden without the proper financial assistance.

Child support is a court-ordered measure in which a non-custodial parent provides financial assistance to cover the expenses of the child(ren). State laws regarding child support vary, but parents are expected to support their children before, during, and after a divorce, both financially and through co-parenting.

Change Is Coming

When a court determines the amount of child support that is to be paid, they will consider both the financial status of parents as well as what expenses the child needs to have covered. Often, as a child grows, the amount of court-ordered support is no longer enough to sustain proper care. At any point of change in circumstance, a child support order may be modified through the court.

Determining when to revisit child support amounts is typically done by the custodial parent who must stay on task to ensure the amount of support they are receiving is in line with the needs of the children. Typical situations can occur progressively or unexpectedly, prompting the need for a support modification through the court system. Examples of situations when child support should be revisited include:

Financial Changes

A modification of child support may be in order if one parent's income increases significantly at some point. If the paying parent were to secure a job that pays more, is the beneficiary of an inheritance, or if they are the recipient of a substantial amount of money through other means, a modification may be granted and the custodial parent would receive more support each month. Also, a modification can be sought if the expenses of the child increase significantly. For example, if a child incurs higher medical bills, school expenses, or other basic living needs, a modification may be granted.

A child support order may also be modified to a decreased amount should a support-paying parent lose a job, lose income, or becomes disabled. In cases where a support-paying parent quits a job voluntarily, it cannot be used as a justifiable reason for loss of income in the court of law.

Parenting Changes

If the custody arrangements between parents change, such as if a child lives long-term with the non-custodial parent, the amount of money ordered in support may be decreased. Should a custodial parent remarry, the amount of support may be decreased if the new spouse's income adds substantially to the household income.

How Often Can Modifications Be Sought?

A court cannot change an order of support unless it is asked to do so in writing. Parents of children under the age of 18 can seek modifications of child support amounts at any time they have sufficient reason until the children reach the age of 18, and following each state's guidelines. Some states will allow additional modifications after the child has reached 18 if they are still in school and require continued support for college costs.

It is recommended that parents seeking a modification in support seek the legal advice of an attorney. They can help calculate the increased (or decreased) amount of support that should be modified with the court and can file the necessary paperwork to request a modification.

What to Bring

When you speak with an attorney or present your case to a family court judge, preparation is key to securing the modification. Some courts may require additional information, but the basic documents to be presented include:

  • Income statements of parent
  • Receipts related to childcare expense
  • Receipts related to health care of the child including basic care and additional expenses for glasses, braces, medications, and therapy
  • Receipts related to education and extra-curricular activities (sports, music lessons, dance classes, etc.)
  • Orders of support for other children in the household
  • Payments of spousal support received

Child support payment amounts should be revisited by custodial parents several times through the course of a child's life until the age of 18. Even when divorce and custody issues are going smoothly, prices are rising and what was adequate support at one time may no longer be enough after several years have passed.

Child support modifications should never be used as a spite tactic to irk either parent. Parents are legally and morally obligated to provide care for their children, both physically and financially, and children have the right to receive support to provide for their basic needs.

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