Can I Change a Child Support Order After Changing Jobs?

The court uses state child support guidelines to set the amount of support the paying parent gives to the other parent. 

You're a parent who pays child support and has changed jobs. However, the amount of child support that you must pay does not automatically change to reflect your current income. The good news is that you can petition the court to change a child support order when you switch to a new job. You may no longer be able to afford the payments due to a decrease in your salary.

The custodial parent may also ask to change the amount of support if the non-custodial parent earns more money from a new job. When the judge adjusts the amount or other terms of court-ordered child support, that action is a child support modification.

In this way, you can modify child support payments to account for changes in your or your child's other parent's income. This article focuses on when (and how) you can alter a child support order after changing jobs. This includes the valid reasons for a change and the general modification process.

Child Support Payments

The cost of living in your state contributes to the specific child support amount. However, financial information from both parents, including both parents' income, is an essential element that the judge uses to set the amount.

A child support affidavit provides information about a parent's income related to the support of their children. Then the judge calculates the child support obligation. The parent can update the affidavit to modify the payment amount. When that financial information changes, it's probably time for the court to change the current child support order.

Child Support Modification

The court must approve any change in a child support order. However, that doesn't mean parents must attend a court hearing. In some states, parents can change the terms of a child support modification by filing a stipulation without ever walking inside a courtroom. But parents must first agree on the modification terms. This also applies to spousal support, though you must pay a filing fee.

Courts consider many facts before approving a request to change the levels of a child support obligation. They typically decide whether the new job and/or other determining factors are a "substantial change in circumstances."

Common Reasons To Change a Child Support Order

One or both parents may seek a modification of child support after changing jobs or experiencing a change in income.

A court may temporarily change an order of child support to accommodate a child's medical emergency. They may also change to accommodate a temporary financial hardship of either one of the parents. It's more common for courts to require an ongoing and consistent change in circumstances before they approve a modification. Temporary modifications rarely occur.

Whatever the reason for changing levels of child support, the court must always consider the needs of the child. Reasons for modifying the child support might include the following:

  • When there is a significant change in the child's needs; this can include urgent medical needs that cause variations in health care costs and health insurance
  • When either parent becomes incarcerated; in most cases, however, child support continues to accrue as arrears
  • When either parent becomes unemployed or experiences a change in income; however, the reasons for the unemployment can significantly impact how a court reviews job loss
  • When family income increases significantly after either parent remarries; however, prior born children always come first
  • When a parent becomes disabled, decreasing their employment opportunities
  • When there is a significant change in parenting time
  • When there is a change in child support laws

How To Modify a Child Support Order

You may have a new job that pays less than what you earned when the court ordered child support. Or you may have experienced job loss and can't make a payment. In either case, it's vital to act as quickly as possible.

When a parent becomes unemployed, the court considers job loss as a reason to request a modification of a child support arrangement. A court may be less likely to lessen your responsibility in a modification request if your employer fired you for misconduct or you quit. A court will likely interpret the job loss as your fault or something which you have control over.

You're responsible for the originally ordered amount until the court approves the modification. Your co-parent may verbally agree to a lower amount or different terms. But the agreement is not valid unless it is in writing, signed by both parties and approved by the court.

State courts hear requests for child support modification; 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 the parents reach an agreement, it must be put in writing and signed by a judge.

Other Resources

Other issues can arise with any arrangement between you and your child's other parent. If you're facing child support enforcement issues, 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. These agencies often provide child support services for free. They also provide readily accessible public assistance for most child custody and child support issues at little or no cost.

If you still need clarification, consider reviewing our page for general information about child support.

Can You Change a Child Support Order After Changing Jobs? Seek Legal Advice from a Lawyer

Your income largely determines the amount of child support you must pay the custodial parent. A change in employment may require a modification of that support. But you must act as soon as possible. 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.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Some states allow you to set up child support with forms and court processes
  • You may need legal help to set up or modify child support arrangements
  • If there is conflict, an attorney can advise if the other parent’s actions are legal 

Get tailored advice about paying or receiving child support. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child support arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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