Legal How-To: Modifying Child Support - Law and Daily Life
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Legal How-To: Modifying Child Support

There are a number of steps one must take in order to modify a child support order. In general, the payment amount may be increased or decreased depending on certain circumstances.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to modify child support:

  1. Identify and document a substantial change in circumstances. Whether it's a job change, a change in household income, a medical disability or another life change, in most cases you will need to demonstrate a significant change in your circumstances to modify a support order. Remember that this change must have occurred after your existing child support order was entered by the court. Keep in mind that many orders include an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) clause, which recalculates payments to reflect inflation. Such clauses eliminate the need to seek modification solely for cost of living increases.
  2. Try to reach an out-of-court agreement. Ideally, you and the other parent should try to reach an agreement outside of court with regard to modifying the child support terms. If you're able to reach an agreement that meets your state's guidelines, the judge only needs to sign off on it by approving the change. If you can't amicably reach an agreement, however, you'll have to go through the steps below via the court system.
  3. File your request with the court. File a motion with the court asking to modify your child support order. You'll also likely be assigned a hearing date.
  4. Serve paperwork on the other parent. The papers you file with the court also need to be served on the other parent, so that he or she is notified about the court hearing. "Service" is the term for proper delivery. There are a number of rules to follow to serve someone lawfully, so pay close attention to the procedural requirements.
  5. Go to court hearing. Attend your court hearing, and take a copy of all your papers and your Proof (or Proofs) of Service. Once the judge makes a decision at the court hearing, the judge will sign a court order.

Depending on the nature of the changed circumstances, the court may grant either a temporary or a permanent modification. A temporary modification may be granted for a temporary financial or medical hardship. A permanent modification may result from unemployment, a new higher-paying job, disability, remarriage (which changes the household income), the child's new needs, or new child support laws.

Need More Help?

For more information on how to modify a child support order, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Getting Child Support Payments and speak to an experienced child support attorney near you.

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