With the job market still struggling and the housing market in the tank for the foreseeable future, it still feels like the Great Recession is as great as ever. Since financial hardship still a factor in so many parents' daily lives, supporting their children can be stressful and sometimes nearly impossible. Non-custodial divorced parents usually have a child support agreement that they must abide by to do just that. But what do you do if, in these tough times, you have a major financial set back? The following may help you learn how to reduce the child support you owe.
Child support agreements (even if negotiated out of court) are finalized as court orders set up for the support of a child or children to care for their everyday needs such as schooling, living expenses and health care. Once the support agreement is finalized by a court order it is binding. If the agreement is violated by a parent who repeatedly fails to make support payments on time, that parent can face fines or even jail time.
If you have a substantial change in circumstances, such as a major financial setback due to a job loss, or large unexpected medical bills, lowering child support payments is a possibility if you ask the court to adjust your support agreement. Because the requirement to pay support at the designated amount continues until a court orders otherwise, you must notify the court of your change in circumstances.
Child support is based on the relevant state's guidelines and definition of "gross income," which includes all income and earnings of the non-custodial parent. This includes not just wages and salaries, but benefits, pensions, property income, etc. Any documentation such as letter from your employer, unemployment benefits documentation, property sales agreements, or medical bills, is a good way to evidence what the change in circumstances is.
Modification of child support payments can also occur if one parent gains income as well. If custodial parent has gained income since the time of the original support order, that may also be a valid reason to seek a change in the support amount. Finally, when the supported child turns 18, there is usually a reduction in the amount of support. This may vary depending on the agreement, epically if the supporting parent has agreed to help pay for a college education.
Of course, the best way to efficiently petition for a change in your support order, and avoid the consequences of failing to pay, is to get help from an experienced family law attorney. Isn't it a good way to set an example for your child by facing up to a problem before it becomes too big to handle?
- FAQ Regarding Modification of Child Support Orders (FindLaw)
- Departing from Support Guidelines (FindLaw)
- State-Specific Child Support Information and Guidelines (FindLaw)
- Main Factors Used in Calculating Child Support (pdf, CA Guidelines, Cal. Courts Info)
- Modifying Child Support (provided by Ronald A. Graziano)
- Child Support (provided by Jonathan D. Katz)