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When Can You Modify Child Support?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Sometimes, circumstances may force you to modify your child support order. Your income may have dropped substantially, or something unexpected may have cropped up in your child's expenses.

Depending on the situation, you may want to decrease or increase the amount of child support you pay.

When can you modify your child support?

A 'Substantial Change' in Circumstances

The short answer is you can modify your child support if there is a substantial change in your or your child's circumstances.

Substantial circumstances can mean a variety of things. For example, your child may suddenly require special classes. Or, your child may need surgery or need extra money as a result of special healthcare needs. These would be legitimate reasons to request an increase in child support payments.

Conversely, your circumstances may have changed. A significant decrease in income can be a good reason to request a decrease in child support payments if you're the non-custodial parent. Decreases in income can come from switching jobs, getting laid off, or getting your pay slashed.

And, sometimes the custodial parent's income can be a factor. Say that your ex-wife has custody of your children. Before, she only had an annual income of $40,000. Now, after switching careers, she's making $150,000 a year. This might be a good reason to request a reduction in how much child support you pay.

How Long Will the Modification Last?

Child support modifications can be temporary, or they can be permanent. If you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement about the child support modification, you will likely have to go through a hearing in front of a judge.

But, keep in mind that child support orders are filed with the court. So even if you and your ex-spouse privately agree on how to modify child support, you will need to go back to court to finalize the agreement.

To learn more about the child support process, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Getting Child Support Payments.

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