When Should I Seek a Child Support Modification?
The standard for seeking child support modification is a permanent, substantial and unforeseen, material change in circumstances. For something to be unforeseen, it has to not have been contemplated at the time of the last order awarding or modifying child support. There are only a handful of situations in which the courts grant a modification to child support. This is because the court and the state hold that it is the parents’ responsibility to support their children, and children deserve to benefit from their parents’ good fortune.
Changes in Job or Income
Any increase or decrease in either parent’s income can serve as a basis for child support modification. However, the change must be substantial, and likely to have an impact on the child support. The court has held that it has to affect the amount of child support by at least $50 or 15% of the current child support award. Ultimately it is up to the courts to decide what is substantial. Additionally, this change in income or employment must be involuntary. The court will not grant a modification if they find that a parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. Instead, the court will impute income to the underemployed or unemployed parent for the purpose of awarding child support.
The relocation of either parent may be grounds for a modification of child support because the parenting plan is going to change. In those instances, the courts will rerun the child support guidelines taking into account the new amount of overnights with both parents. Then, the courts may factor in any other things necessary, such as transportation costs. A parent must ask specifically for a modification of child support when modifying a time-sharing plan due to relocation.
The Child Develops Special Needs
If overtime a child develops special needs, such as learning disability, or physical disability, a parent may request a modification of child support to cover those expenses or needs. Additionally, the court may grant to extend the child support obligation beyond the age of 18, if the special need is likely going to continue into the age of majority.
Decreases or Increases in the Cost of Insurance or Day Care
Daycare costs and insurance costs are two expenses that the courts factor into the child support guidelines. These costs will offset the resulting child support award amount. As children age, often the need for childcare decreases, which frees up income that can be contributed towards child support. Or, in some cases, a parent switches insurance or the other parent takes over the cost of insurance. In either of those scenarios, a parent may be able to petition for a modification. However, only if the responsibility or loss of necessity impacts the financial reward ‘substantially.’
There are many factors taken into consideration when modifying child support. Getting it right the first time is essential because the burden gets heavier when parents agree to modify. Therefore, it is important to know what both parties are agreeing to. If you are considering modifying, or feel that any of the above scenarios apply to you, please reach out to our team of family law attorneys. We’ll assist you in your case, and ensure you it is done right the first time.