Can I modify my child support order?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have three small children. At the time my divorce I had a high paying job. I have been out of work for three months. Even if I get a new job I will probably make less money. There is no way I can pay what I used to pay in child support. I love my kids, but I have to be realistic about my options. Can I go back to court and renegotiate my child support order?”

Child Support order renegotiation

Courts seldom modify agreements for debt or property division (or if they do there is only a limited window for requesting a change). Modifying a child support order, however, is not uncommon, assuming the supporting spouses can prove they have had a significant change in circumstance.

Let’s take a look at the steps you will need to take for the modification.

Steps to modify a child support order

Ideally, the first step to modify your child support order is to discuss your new financial situation with your spouse. Honest and clarity is in order. Tell her that your circumstances have changed, and you need to modify the order.

If she agrees, you can work with your attorney to construct a new agreement and submit the modifications to the court in writing. A hearing may be held for the court to review the order. If the court agrees with the revisions, the judge will issue a new court order that you and your spouse will have to follow.

What if my spouse and I cannot agree on a new child support order?

Unfortunately, even if you have had a substantial change in your financial circumstance, you may not be able to convince your ex-wife that the child support order must be modified. If she does not agree you will have file a motion for modification. This request will then be served on your wife.

After your spouse receives the motion, they will have a specific amount of time to respond. After they respond a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing you will be required to provide evidence that your financial situation has changed (i.e. current pay stubs, evidence that you have a severe disability and cannot work, or evidence that you have remarried and are supporting more children) and that the modification is needed.

Note: under some circumstances parents may be able to hire a mediator to resolve their child support disagreements rather than taking the case to court. Not only can this be less contentious, this might also cost less money and take less time. 

Do we really have to go back to court to modify the support order? 

While amicable spouses may be able to discuss financial changes and come to an agreement about the necessary changes in child support, it’s important that all of the changes be legally solidified. In fact, it’s possible for issues to arise in the future and for the state to require you to repay all child support payments in arrears required by the original divorce decree, regardless of the informal agreement you made with your spouse.

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