If you weren’t granted custody of your child, you were likely ordered to pay child support to the other parent in the custody or divorce action. Even if you were granted joint or shared physical custody, you may have been ordered to pay child support if your income was greater than the other parent’s income. Your state or county likely has a child support agency that helps collect and account for child support payments. Your child support payments will likely be due each month until the child becomes an adult.
How Can I Get My Child Support Payment Amount Changed?
Situations change and child support payments should reasonably reflect those changes. This helps ensure that the child receives proper care, and both parents can afford their obligations. How can you change your child support payment amount? Are you the custodial parent who receives child support or the non-custodial parent who pays it? What circumstances may warrant such a change?
When to Consider Having Your Child Support Amount Changed
Changing the amount of child support you pay or receive for a child is legally referred to as child support modification. Parents (or legal guardians) can request a modification regardless of whether they are custodial or non-custodial parents. Examples of circumstances that frequently lead to changes in child support payments include:
- Income has significantly increased for one of the parents. For instance, due to a new job, promotion, or graduation from schooling. Being the recipient of inheritance can also count as income in some situations.
- Income has significantly decreased for one of the parents, usually must be due to no fault of the parent. A factory closed down. A parent becomes seriously sick or injured and starts receiving social security disability.
- The child’s expenses change. For instance, owing to special medical or educational needs.
- Custody arrangements or visitation/parenting time are altered.
- One of the parents is incarcerated (depending on the specifics of the case).
In some states, the child support order may come with automatic adjustments (often increases) in the child support over time. These are often calculated at a certain small percentage to account for inflation over time.
Are Child Support Payment Modifications Permanent?
Any modification made to child support payments may be temporary or permanent. However, this depends on whether or not the circumstances that affect the decision are short or long-term.
Are you a non-custodial parent who can no longer afford the child support ordered? Are the custodial parent and the other parent’s income has significantly increased? If so, it is crucial to request a modification as soon as possible. You may not be able to request the child support to change prior to the time of filing the action, even if the reason for requesting the change has existed for a long time before filing.
Even if you are not able to make the full payment amount, it is usually advisable to pay at least something each month and to make the highest child support payment you can reasonably afford each and every month. A parent that stops making all payments may be seen as acting in bad faith and maybe making it harder to convince the judge that lowering the child support is appropriate.
How Can You Request a Child Support Modification?
The procedure varies from state to state, and even from Court to Court. Depending on where you are, the procedure may be an administrative process or through a judicial court. In Nebraska, the child support modification is generally started by filing a Complaint to Modify. The other party must be served with the Complaint and given thirty days to file a response to the Complaint with the Court. The next steps can vary greatly depending on the case. The next steps usually involve the exchange of income information before setting the case for a hearing if you can’t reach an agreement.
The parent requesting the modification action can always petition for the modification action on their own or with the help of an attorney. You may also want to contact your local child support office to see if there is a review process. If the child support office reviews and finds a modification is appropriate, they may proceed with modification action without you having to make the initial filing. When the child support office pursues the modification, this is typically done free of charge.
Regardless of whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, it will be helpful if you are able to provide detailed documentation that is able to shed light on the modification request.
Work With The Other Parent
In many cases, custodial and non-custodial parents will have an amicable relationship. Custodial and non-custodial parents may discuss modifying the amount of child support among themselves and reach an agreement. This is a favorable situation. It is important to note that adjusting payments on your own is never a good idea. Going to court to legally modify the child support amount ensures that you will not face administrative hurdles at a later point.
Keep in mind that child support payment modifications are typically not retroactive. Therefore, if you request a decrease in the amount you pay, that does not affect any amount you may still owe. If you petition the court to increase the child support payments you receive, that agreement will pertain to the date you sign the court order, and not to the months prior.
Additional Reading: Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support
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