Everything You Need to Know About Modifying a Child Support Order
What to Do If You Want to Change Child Support
Roughly 56% of parents with child support arrangements report that they are not happy with their current child support order. If you are one of the many people dealing with an unsatisfactory child support arrangement, you do have some opportunities available. In many situations, it is possible to file a request with the court that asks them to change your child support.
Understanding How Courts Determine Child Support
Before you start trying to figure out how to modify your child support order, it is helpful to understand how child support in New Jersey works. When you separate from the parent of a child, you and the other parent have the option of making an arrangement on your own. However, if you cannot agree, the courts will get involved.
The courts do not focus on making these fair for the parents or ensuring each person pays the same amount. Instead, they will solely decide child custody based on the child’s best interests. Some things that the court might consider include:
- The child’s financial needs
- The child’s current standard of living
- Each parent’s economic circumstances
- The parents’ custody agreement
- The health and age of the child
- Each parent’s earning ability and current salary
- Any debts the child may have
- The child’s educational needs
- The child’s health care needs
When Does the Court Let You Change Child Support?
Every three years, federal law requires the court to review your child support order and make changes as needed. At this time, you can make any adjustments based on a change in circumstances. Even if three years have not passed, the court will allow you to change your existing child support arrangement if your situation undergoes a substantial change. However, to get a modification, you will need to show that the changed situation is permanent. For example, you probably cannot change your child support just because you were fired from your waitressing job. You might only be able to change it if you could show you are unable to get another similar job. You’ll also need to show the change was not a voluntary one specifically meant to manipulate child support.
Some common examples of changed circumstances that require a child support modification include:
- The cost of living for your area has drastically increased
- You or your child has developed a serious chronic illness or a disability
- The person receiving child support is now living with someone who will help pay housing expenses
- Either parent has had a permanent increase or decrease in their income
- You have decided to change your current custody arrangements
- Either parent is about to retire and will need to adjust living expenses
- The child has new and unavoidable expenses, such as schooling or medical expenses
How to Formally Ask for a Child Support Change
Child support is meant to be a clearly defined legal arrangement. It’s not a good idea to just go to the other parent, ask for a change, and then adjust how much you are paying or receiving in child support. These informal agreements are not enforceable, so a parent could quit paying the extra money or complain to the Department of Children and Families about a lack of payments. If you want to provide security and stability for your child, you need to formally adjust the payments. To learn how to change child support, you will need to follow these steps:
- Fill out a motion requesting a modification for child support.
- Fill out a proposed order that shows what you think the new child support arrangement should be.
- Obtain a copy of your former child support arrangement and any other relevant custody or divorce paperwork.
- Print out bank statements and other financial documents to make your case.
- Submit the modification request and the supporting documents to the court in person, by mail, or electronically.
- File a notice that informs other involved parties of your desired changes.
- Wait to see if further documentation or information is needed. You may need to appear in front of a judge to discuss the issue, but in most cases, this is not required.
What to Expect After You Request a Change
When people first start considering changing child support, they often worry about the idea of a long, drawn-out court battle. The good news is that this is unlikely to occur. All the departments involved in child support will try to move things along as efficiently as possible. You usually will not have to see the other parent or argue with them in court. You both just submit your documents, plead your case, and let the government decide what will be best for your child. After the court gets all relevant information, they will state their decision. You can get one of three outcomes.
The court may choose to go ahead and deny your petition outright. In these cases, they will explain why they are keeping the child support order the same. This can help you decide whether you and your divorce lawyer want to try again or whether you want to accept the current order.
Your motion to change your order could be approved, and you will be notified of the new change and the date it takes effect. It can take a few weeks from the motion’s approval to the new child support order. Especially in cases where the other parent was not involved in the court case, it can take some time to notify them and start seeking adjusted payments.
The court does not have to agree with your proposed modifications, and they might approve your request with their own caveats. They can look over your petition and agree your child support order needs updating but choose their own alterations. In many cases, the court may slightly raise or lower child support payments but not make as drastic of a change as you might want. There have even been situations where one party goes in asking to pay less child support and actually ends up having to pay more.
Since there is no guarantee that you will get your desired outcome, you need to be sure that you have all your legal and financial paperwork in order before proceeding. To get the best possible outcome for you and your family, it is important to prepare thoroughly and get a divorce lawyer who can help you make your case. Having legal advice can help you ensure that you make your case and show why your child support ought to change.
The Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco is here to help if your child support agreement is not working. We can assess your circumstances and suggest changes that might work well for your situation. Our team of lawyers can also ensure that all relevant paperwork is filed and help you make your case for altered support. To schedule a consultation at our Hackensack office, call 201-343-0078 or fill out our contact form.