You probably hear about “deadbeat” parents all the time. These mothers and fathers avoid paying child support and end up owing tens of thousands of dollars in back pay. Sometimes these parents are put in jail. Others lose their driver’s licenses and professional licenses. Some get their wages garnished.
While many of these parents intentionally try to skirt their financial responsibilities as a parent, there are many parents who actually want to help support their children but do not have the means to do so. Having to pay child support on top of rent, food, utilities, and other necessities can be a huge financial burden. Of course, in terms of priority, child support goes to the bottom of the list.
Fortunately, there is a solution that can help. Child support modification is an option for those who are facing major financial changes in their lives and need to reduce their child support obligation for a temporary period of time or even permanently.
If you cannot pay your child support on time, you definitely need to let the courts know. You cannot simply ignore your obligation and hope it will go away. It will not. The amount you owe will continue to add up. You could end up losing your professional license. You may not be able to obtain a passport. You could even end up in jail.
That is why modifications are possible. Courts understand that financial situations change. However, not every situation qualifies for a modification. It has to be a dramatic change in order to be approved.
Will the court consider your specific situation? How can you go about changing a child support order? Read on to learn more about the process.
When to Consider a Child Support Modification
There are four main reasons in which the court might consider and approve a petition to modify child support. They include the following:
- Decreased income. This can work both ways. If the parent paying child support suddenly loses his or her job and is not making as much money as before, this can make it hard to pay child support. On the flip side, if the parent who serves as the primary caretaker loses his or her job, then he or she can petition the court to modify the amount of child support being received in order to continue to pay for the child’s expenses. This means that the custodial parent can ask the court to modify the current order and force the paying parent to increase his or her monthly obligation, meaning that he or she would have to pay even more money.
- Increased income. If the custodial parent becomes aware that the other parent has gotten a raise or come into a large sum of money, he or she may petition the court to order that the parent to pay more in child support.
- Increased childcare responsibilities. Children’s needs tend to increase as they get older. A child may need medical care or braces or may be participating in extracurricular activities. This means that the custodial parent may ask for an increase in child support to cover the costs of these changig needs.
- Increased family obligations. If a payer remarries or has more children, he or she may take on more family obligations. This means that the paying spouse may petition the court to reduce the amount of child support he or she is currently paying in order to have more money to support the other children.
Note that incarceration may not be an excuse to avoid child support payments. In some states, incarceration is considered voluntary unemployment. If you end up in jail or prison, contact the local child support office for help. Your obligations will not end.
Filing the Petition
When petitioning the court to modify child support, use Form 12.905(b), which is the Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support.With this form, you must also include a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, settlement agreement, Family Law Financial Affidavit, and Notice of Social Security Number.
Once all this paperwork is filed, the case cannot proceed until the other parent is notified. Once the parent is served, he or she has 20 days to respond. If the other parent contests the order, the case may go to mediation. If the issues cannot be resolved, the case could go to trial.
The court will review the paperwork and the circumstances to see if the order should be increased or decreased as requested. The court will determine if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This may require proof of income, such as pay stubs and tax returns.
A modification may be temporary or permanent in nature, depending on the situation. For example, if the child needs braces, that would be a temporary need. On the other hand, if the child is diagnosed with a long-term medical condition, the change in support would be permanent in nature.
Seek Legal Help
The one certainty in life is that it never stays the same. People get laid off from jobs all the time. Some end up seriously injured and unable to work. If your income has changed and you can no longer afford child support, do no simply ignore it and stop paying. This can make your current situation even worse.
Instead, consider modifying your child support order so you can meet your obligations and stay legal. To learn about your options, contact Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler. He can answer your questions about child support. Call his office today at (954) 346-6464 to schedule your free consultation.