When the court issues child support orders, it compels both parents to live up to the rights and obligations under the inflexible order for as long as it’s in place. The paying spouse cannot decide to pay late, skip a month, or pay less than the order demands. Whether both spouses created the terms of the order between themselves in a divorce settlement agreement approved by the courts or the order came directly from a judge, both spouses must abide by the terms of the order. But what if one parent experiences a substantial change in circumstances? How does a parent know when it’s acceptable to request a change to existing child support orders, and how do they go about seeking an official modification of the order?
Reasons to Seek a Child Support Modification Order
Though the terms of a child support order are not flexible while the order stands, either parent may request a change to an existing order if there’s been a significant and long-term change in circumstances such as any of the following;
A substantial change in either parent’s income including promotion with higher pay, demotion with lower pay, or job termination
A paying parent’s new health condition or disability
A significant change in the costs of caring for a child, such as a new medical condition or added daycare or school costs
Special education needs
A change in health insurance expense
The parenting time/child custody schedule has changed
The youngest child has turned 18, been emancipated, or is no longer living in the home
For requested child support modifications due to changes in income, the courts typically only consider continuing changes of at least 10% of the parent’s previous income. In many cases, the courts will make the modification retroactive to the date the petitioner filed the modification request to accommodate for the length of time taken to review the case and approve the request unless doing so creates a financial hardship.
The courts recognize that circumstances sometimes change, If you have a compelling reason to request a modification of the amount of child support that you pay or receive, you may file a request for a modification of an existing child support order in your jurisdiction or through the county child support office handling your case. However, the courts will not agree to the request if a judge determines the parent made a negative change in circumstance voluntarily.
When Do Courts Deny Requests for Child Support Modification?
Child support orders include a presumption that both parents will remain employed to the best of their ability. Quitting a job and then requesting a modification of child support orders generally results in the court finding that the parent is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed and a denial of the request. The only exceptions may be in cases of a parent quitting or downgrading their employment in order to pursue an educational or training opportunity for career advancement. The court may also deny a modification request if the parent doesn’t provide proof of the change in circumstances.
Courts typically deny the request for child support modification if they determine the changes to be insubstantial, unwarranted, or temporary, or that the parent created financial hardship by purchasing an unaffordable home, car, boat, or RV.
If you wish to request a child support modification as the paying parent or the receiving parent, our child support attorney in Fort Collins can help determine if the request is appropriate under the state’s guidelines.