Sometimes after a child support order has been issued, the circumstances of either of the parents will have changed in such a substantial way that a modification to the child support order may be warranted. A parent who is seeking such a modification may do so either by filing a motion to modify the order with the court or, in some instances, by submitting a request to the appropriate Child Support Enforcement Agency. It is important for a person seeking a modification of child support to consult a knowledgeable attorney in order to determine how best to proceed.
Motions to the Court
Any motion to modify an existing child support order must be filed with the court having jurisdiction over the matter. If the previous order was issued as a part of a divorce decree, the court that has jurisdiction will normally be the one that heard the divorce case. If the previous order was issued through the Child Support Enforcement Agency, the court that has jurisdiction will normally be the one located in the county in which the agency is located.
In order to meet the requirements for a child support modification request, the change upon which the motion is based must be “substantial.” One way to meet this burden is if one or both of the parties’ incomes have changed enough that it would result in at least a 10 percent change to the ordered amount when child support is recalculated pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. For example, if a person has lost his or her job and the loss was not his or her fault that may be sufficient to show a substantial change. The parent receiving child support (called the “obligee”) may also initiate a request for an increase in child support if the paying parent’s (called the “obligor”) income has increased such that the change will result in at least a 10 percent increase in the ordered amount.
After a motion is filed, the other party will need to be served with a copy of it. Both parties will attend one or more hearings set by the court, at which the parties should expect to present evidence to the court to support the basis for their request to modify the existing child support order.
Requests to the Child Support Enforcement Agency
A person may instead choose to file a request for a modification of child support with the applicable Child Support Enforcement Agency. Although the reasons for the change may be similar to reasons to support a motion filed with the court, the agency is more limited in what it can take into account when determining whether a modification in child support is appropriate.