Knowing when you can modify your child support can help you support your family.

When to Modify Your Child Support

The expenses that come with raising a child are always changing and are even more challenging when your ex isn’t paying. They grow out of diapers and need money for school trips. Suddenly they need glasses or braces. You may realize you need life insurance or healthcare included in your child support order. The economy changes and cost of living adjustments are sometimes needed. Luckily, your child support order can change with your needs; it’s just a matter of knowing when to modify your child support order. Even if you aren’t receiving your child support, placing a modification order as soon as you can will increase their arrears.

The general thought is to make sure the courts review your child support order every couple of years to account for inflation (something the child support agency should do already but may not) and changes in circumstance.

There are two types of modification, upward and downward. They are what they sound like; the courts can award an upward modification or increase in child support if your expenses increase or your ex gets an increase in income. Meanwhile, a downward modification comes when your expenses decrease or his income decreases.

Upward Modification

No matter the reason, it will always be a challenge to get an upward modification to child support. You will need hard proof that the modification is necessary, which you can do by keeping track of your expenses. Anytime you are pursuing an upward modification of child support, be sure to ask yourself, “Is there a good reason to ask for more money?” and “Is my ex in a better position to pay?” Whenever going to court for an upward modification, make sure your case is as airtight as possible. The judge may think that you are receiving too much child support and give you a downward modification. 

Beyond expected inflation, there are four main reasons that child support can have an upward modification:

1. Your Ex Has an Increase in Income

If a parent gets a significant raise, the children should benefit, right? If the child support payor receives a significant (considered to be 10% or more) raise through a promotion or new job, you can ask for a modification to your child support. The obligor’s children have the right to an increase in standard of living if his increases. Keep in mind that the courts will only award the increase if they feel it is needed. You can ask for an upward modification due to cost of living increases if you haven’t applied for one in the last couple years. If it is purely related to changing circumstances, you need to show that your children need the extra money.

2. Cost of Child Care Increases

The cost of raising their child is always changing for a parent. Sometimes you’ll get a new job that doesn’t line up with your children’s school schedules, so you have to pay for work-related child care while working your shift.

3. Inheritance

Keep the money in the family, right? If your ex comes into a sizable inheritance, you can file for a child support modification so that the inheritance helps improve your children’s lives, not just his.

4. Increased Medical Costs

Having higher medical bills is also a reason to get an upward modification on your child support. Whether it’s an increase in dentist visits for braces or, God forbid, your child needs to spend time in the hospital over an extended period of time; if there is ever a time for dad to step up and pay more for their child, it’s to help cover medical bills.

Downward Modification

Even though you and your child’s needs may not have changed, dad may feel it is necessary to request a downward modification to his child support payments. If you see any of these three occur, he may ask for a downward modification: 

1. The Payor Retires or Goes on Disability

The courts can reduce a payor’s child support obligation if they retire or go on disability.

2. Your Ex Loses Their Job

Let’s be clear about this; this cannot be a voluntary loss of income. The court shouldn’t award a downward modification of child support if they quit their job and took a new one that pays less. That generally won’t cut it. They must have lost their job for reasons beyond their control and take a job where they make significantly less money out of necessity. If they are still looking for work, it is possible to get a temporary downward modification, but they must have been out of work for months. If they just lost their job, their support can be collected from unemployment.

3. New Family Responsibilities

When a child support obligor remarries, he may have to take care of new children. In this case, he can apply for a downward modification of child support arguing that he needs enough money to support his new children.

Nobody is going to pay more attention to your child support order than you. It shouldn’t be up to you to make sure your order is reviewed and that changing circumstances are accounted for, but you can’t count on the court to revisit your case or your ex to be forthcoming about income increases. If you become aware of any changes in your ex’s life, such as a promotion or a new marriage, know that either of you can apply for a modification. Knowing what can lead to a child support modification and giving yourself time to prepare for it can make life much easier for you and your family.

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