Can I Change a Child Support Order After Changing Jobs?
If you're a parent who pays child support and have changed jobs, the amount of child support you are required to pay does not automatically change to reflect your new salary. However, you may petition the court to change a child support order after changing over to a new job, particularly if you can no longer afford the payments due to a decrease in pay.
Similarly, the custodial parent may seek additional child support if the non-custodial parent earns substantially higher wages from a new job. In this way, you can bring about adjustments to child support payments to account for changes in your or your child's other parent's income.
Changing the amount or terms of court-ordered child support is referred to as "child support modification." Courts consider a variety of facts before approving a request to change levels of child support and typically decide whether the new job (or other determining factors) can be considered a "substantial change in circumstances."
Furthermore, parents who agree on the terms of a child support modification may do so with a judge's approval. The same can be true of spousal support, under which child support can also fall.
This article focuses on when (and how) you can change a child support order after changing jobs, including valid reasons for such a change and how the process generally works.
Reasons to Change a Child Support Order
One or both parents may seek to change a child support order after changing jobs or otherwise experiencing a change in income. A change may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the particular circumstances of the request.
For example, a court may temporarily change an order of child support to accommodate a child's medical emergency or a temporary financial hardship of either one of the parents. It's more common, however, for courts to require an ongoing and consistent change in circumstances before they approve a modification. Temporary modifications occur under only the rarest of circumstances.
Whatever the reason for changing levels of child support, the court must always consider the needs of the child. Reasons for changing a child support order might include the following:
- A significant change in the child's needs, such as emergent medical needs that cause fluctuations in the child's costs for health care and health insurance
- Either parent has been incarcerated, although generally child support continues to accrue as arrears
- Either parent becomes unemployed or experiences a change in income, although the reasons for the unemployment can significantly impact how a court reviews job loss
- Family income increases significantly after either parent remarries, although prior born children always take precedence in courts' assessments of this reason for a modification
- A parent becomes disabled, decreasing their employment prospects, or otherwise constraining resources
- A change in child support laws
How to Modify a Child Support Order
If you have a new job that pays less than what you earned when child support was ordered, or you have experienced job loss and are unable to make a payment, it's important to act as quickly as possible.
In cases where a parent has become unemployed, the reason for job loss is taken into account when courts review a request to modify a child support arrangement. For example, if you were fired for misconduct or if you quit your job, a court may be less likely to lessen your responsibility in a request for modification. This is because a court will likely interpret the job loss as your fault or something over which you had more control than you exercised.
It's also important to note that child support modifications are not retroactive, which means that you're responsible for the originally ordered amount until a modification is approved by the court. Even if your spouse verbally agrees to a lower amount or different terms, it won't carry the force of law unless the agreement is in writing, signed by both parties, and approved by the court.
Requests for child support modification are handled by state courts, and the process is generally similar for all jurisdictions. The parent requesting the modification must file a motion with the court that issued the original order. Also, if an agreement is reached between the two parents, it must be put in writing and signed by a judge.
Other issues can, of course, arise within the scope of any arrangement between you and your child's other parent. In the event you're facing an issue of child support enforcement and your former partner is not adhering to your current support arrangement under an existing child support order, consider contacting your local child support agency. Often providing services for free, these agencies provide readily accessible public assistance for most child custody and child support issues at little or no cost.
If you're still confused, consider reviewing our page for general information about child support as well.
Can You Change a Child Support Order After Changing Jobs? Seek Legal Advice from a Lawyer!
Since your income largely determines the amount of child support you are required to pay the custodial parent, a change in employment may require a modification of that support. But you have to take action as soon as possible, since the support amount ordered by the court stands regardless of your actual take-home pay. Have a family law attorney help you with your child support case.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.