Child Support Modification Tutorial
From time to time in the lives of parents that either used to be married and now are divorced or were never married but nonetheless have something of a court order that includes child support, the hours, wages, incomes, salary, health, parenting time, and number of minor children are apt to change. Similarly, there may be changes to the cost of the medical and dental insurance for the children as well as their childcare. All this prompts the need to update the child support obligations amongst the parties.
It is possible for two people to agree to change the support amount, and in doing so then start following their new agreement. Most people can make that agreement verbally or captured in writing via email or paper agreement. If both parties get along well and they do a good job documenting it, there’s no harm in coming to a written agreement between the parties that supersedes what’s on file with the court. However, it’s not uncommon for one of the parties to want to update the court because there are a number of advantages in having the agreement on the record in case it ever needs to come to the court’s attention in the future. If one of the parties wants that on record, it’s going to have to be filed with the court; there’s not a circumstance where it requires both parties to agree on that. Chances are that any such agreement that’s going to be filed to the court should be in a properly formatted court document. I would expect court administration to reject any filing of emails or handwritten agreement or even a typed and signed agreement that’s not properly formatted.
Going one step further, if it’s got to be properly formatted and filed through the court, it may as well also be a court order such that it is both stipulated to by both parties as well as signed by a judge; such protects the recipient in knowing that the amount that was agreed to is now also court-ordered to improve the likelihood that it’s paid in full and it protects the payor in that by judicial approval there’s no leeway for the recipient to claim that the payor was supposed to be paying what’s on the agreement plus something more on the side.
There’s nothing wrong with two parents taking their income information along with the other factors, calculating what the child support should be pursuant to the online child support calculator and coming to an agreement as to what that amount should be. However, if there are disagreements on the facts to be used, the only effective way to modify child support is to bring a motion to modify child support. While it is possible to effectively follow all the steps to prepare a motion, serve it, file it, and handle your own child support hearing, this is also a matter that an attorney can assist either a payor or recipient with.
Sometimes parties have conflicting motives in their need to modify child support. In some instances, a payor may recognize that he has less income, the recipient has greater income, he has more parenting time, one of their children has graduated from high school as well as turned the age of 18, et cetera. Meanwhile, the recipient may recognize that she is due more child support because it’s been two years and the decree noted that she’s eligible for a cost of living adjustment.
Last that should be noted for the payor who’s interested in child support modification, is that he must show that there’s been a change in circumstances that will result in a qualifying change in child support. If the inputs that go into calculating child support (incomes, number of children, parenting time, et cetera) results in a new child support amount that is either $75 different from the current monthly amount or 20% different than the current child support amount, whichever is lower, he can proceed with a motion to modify child support. For instance, if a payor was paying $600 per month in child support and determined that with the new inputs the child support calculator specifies that child support should be $550 per month, we would note that it’s only a $50 change and that 20% is equal to $60. Since the $50 change is neither greater than the $60 or $75, he would not be eligible to bring a child support modification motion (or rather he could always file it but by the time that he got to court he would have to worry about his motion being denied and having to reimburse the payor for whatever her costs were, be it filing fees, attorney’s fees, time off of work, whatever that she had to incur because he brought an ineligible motion that he should have known not to file). Similar considerations also apply to the medical support and childcare support as separate obligations for the payor and the recipient.
In conclusion, the amount that should be paid every month for child support remains as previously court-ordered unless and until the parties reach a mutually agreeable understanding or a court orders otherwise. If there is a mutually agreeable understanding, it should be in writing. If there is not an agreement, one party cannot force the other party to accept their calculations and beliefs no matter how ardently they believe them to be true. In the face of the party’s inability to exercise self-help to avoid the additional stress and anxiety that comes with returning to court, the only option for parents with a common child support order is to return to court with a motion for the court to address the same.