The rippling effects of the economic meltdown have spread throughout the country, making it harder for average Janes and Joes to pay bills, take care of themselves, and, yes, even support families.
If you are suffering under financial stress and cannot afford to support your children at the same rate you used to, don't feel ashamed. It doesn't mean you're a deadbeat or greedy parent, just someone who may need a slight modification to ease the pain of financial hardship. However, courts do not easily modify child support arrangements, preferring to keep child support orders stable for the best interests of the child.
If you would like to modify child support payments, whether you need to lessen the cost of payments or increase the amount you receive, here are the top five reasons why courts will modify child support:
1. Through Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) clauses.
If your judge was insightful enough to include a COLA clause in your child support order, your payments automatically adapt each year to your annual cost of living, which are determined by an economic indicator. Under a COLA clause, you do not have to receive a judge’s permission to modify your payments if either of your cost of living situations has changed.
2. The child reaches 18.
Typically, when a child reaches the age of majority (usually 18), a parent is not obliged to continue child support payments nor seek permission from the court to stop, unless the order included the child’s college education. This gets complicated if you have agreed to pay a lump sum for several children, however, and you will have to receive court approval to modify child support payments when the first child reaches 18.
3. An out-of-court agreement has been reached with the other parent.
No one likes going to court. It can be a stressful experience, necessitating more time and money than you have. It’s always wise to see if an agreement can be reached with the parent to modify child support payments. Although you will typically still have to go to a judge to finalize the modification, it will be a much easier process if both sides are in agreement.
4. A temporary emergency situation has occurred.
Courts will temporarily modify child support payments under emergency situations, such as a child or parent’s medical emergency or the temporary loss of employment.
5. A valid permanent change in situation has occurred.
Courts will permanently modify child support arrangements for certain situations that modify the parents’, children’s or the law’s status. These changes include the remarriage, permanent disability, or increase in income of a parent; a change in the needs of the child; or a change in family law regarding child support.
For help with modifying your child support order, talk to a local family law attorney.
- Find a Phoenix Family Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Child Support Modification Tips (FindLaw)
- Modifying Child Support Agreements (The Phoenix Family Law News Blog)
- How Child Support Calculation Works in the Recession (FindLaw’s Law & Daily Life)