Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 8, 2020

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A child support order can be changed or modified if there is a material change in circumstance. The party seeking to modify child support will need to petition the court, and will have the burden of proving that circumstances have changed in such a manner that the order needs to be altered.

Basics of Child Support

Public policy places a strong emphasis on each parent providing child support for his or her children. As such, each state has set forth formulas used to determine appropriate levels of support based on the time the children spends with each parent, the incomes of both the custodial and non-custodial parents, the special needs of the child, the number of children, the financial obligations each parent has, and a number of other factors. Careful determination goes into an order of child support that is determined using these formulas.

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How to Modify Child Support

Child support orders may be changed in one of two ways. The first is that the parents may agree on the change and present a request to the court; these amicable changes are usually approved, provided there is no strong and compelling reason not to.

The second is that one parent can seek a change without the approval of the other parent and can petition the court to make the alteration. If the second scenario is the scenario you find yourself in, be aware that getting the court to make a change may not be a simple matter as courts will generally only make a change if there is a compelling reason to.

In any case, it is vital that a party unable to make child support payments take the necessary steps with the court to make a change. Child support payments do not just go away if unpaid, a parent can be subject to wage garnishment, possible jail time, additional fines, tax return interception, or may have their drivers license revoked, if they fall too far behind on payments. But filing the right paper work with the Family Court can set the process into motion and allow time for a feasible plan to be worked out.

Grounds for Modification

When there is material change in circumstance that requires a new child support arrangment be drafted, this is usually grounds for modification. A number of things could constitute a material change in circumstances. For example, one of the parents can experience a change of income, loss of employment or other unavoidable income-related change that may require recalculation of child support obligations. Other examples are a unforeseen change in the cost of raising the child such as an expensive medical diagnosis or in the case a custody arrangement is altered, the monetary support agreement may need to change accordingly.

VIDEO: Changing Child Support after a Change of Income

Getting Help

Every family’s arrangement is tailered to their specific situation, so it is always best to consult a child support lawyer, who can offer direct advice on when and how to modify child support.