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Child Support Modification Tips

Sometimes previously agreed upon or court-ordered child support arrangements prove unfeasible. Life events, such as the loss of a job, serious injury, or a change in marital status, sometimes require changing the child support arrangement currently in place.

Only a court can raise or lower child support payments. The following child support modification tips will help you navigate the process and get some peace of mind.

Act Quickly

If you are unable to pay the amount of court-ordered child support you owe each month, take steps now to secure a child support modification order. Unpaid child support cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and generally cannot be reduced retroactively.

Inform Yourself

Look into the child support laws in your state and learn what constitutes a "substantial change in circumstances" sufficient to warrant a child support modification. Some jurisdictions add the terms "material" or "unforeseen" to this language to qualify the requirements for a modification. Consult a child support attorney in your area for guidance.

Try to Reach an Agreement with the Other Parent

See if the other parent will agree to modified child support payments. Of course, in many cases, agreement can prove difficult. But given the emotional and financial expense of litigating child support, starting the discussion with an eye toward agreement is wise.

Realize that even if the parties do reach an agreement, that agreement still must be approved by a judge and formalized in a court order modifying child support. An informal agreement between ex-spouses is not binding on the state agency responsible for collecting child support arrearages. An agreement is not a substitute for an order of modification.

But a court is likely to strongly consider an agreement the parents have already agreed to, and doing so can also decrease the cost of going to court. Parents may consider mediation as a method to help them reach agreement if it's proving difficult to find common ground.

Keep Making your Child Support Payments as Best You Can

To the maximum extent possible, keep making the child support payments required under the current child support order. The existing child support order remains in effect unless and until the court issues a new child support order. Pay as much as you can and pay it in the manner specified by the child support order.

Not putting forth your best effort to pay will hurt your argument that new circumstances (rather than lack of effort) require a new child support amount and will cause unpaid child support to pile up.

Document Your Change in Circumstances

Whether it's a job change, a change in household income, medical disability, or other life change, you will need to demonstrate a significant change in your circumstances. Remember, this change must have occurred after your existing child support order was entered by the court.

If you can't pay all of your child support because you lost your job or earn less money than before, make a serious effort to find new employment and document your attempts. Take care to be completely accurate in stating and detailing all of your household's income.

File Your Request for Child Support Modification with the Court

You should file it with the court that issued the child support order currently in place.

Whether both parents agree to a modification, or one parent wants the court to order a change in child support and the other parent opposes it, you will still need a new child support order for the change to take effect.

The papers you file with the court also need to be served on the other parent.

Get Child Support Modification Tips Specific to Your Needs by Talking to a Lawyer

If you're seeking to lower your child support payments because of a job loss or other unexpected circumstances, you'll need to follow the laws and procedures in your state. Start the process of getting a child support modification order by speaking with a child support lawyer in your area.

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.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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