A Guide to Modifying Child Support Payments

November 15, 2016 / 12:00 am

It’s a natural question to ask a Bucks County family law attorney:

Will the amount of child support I need to pay ever change?

And while the short answer is “Yes,” it’s not that simple. Let’s look at some of the reasons why child support payment modifications happen, and what that might mean.

Why would the court modify child support payments? Typically, a parent will ask the court for a modification if there’s a change in circumstances from whatever existed at the time the child support order went into effect.

These changes can include:

1. A change in the child’s needs

If a child becomes disabled, is diagnosed with a long-term or chronic illness, or requires new and sudden expenditures, the court may increase the amount of support that child receives.

2. Change in a parent’s income or employment

Any change that impacts a parent’s income could be enough for a judge to adjust the child support ruling. It might mean a new job, a raise, a promotion, an inheritance, lottery or gambling winnings, but also a layoff, a demotion, or a decrease in hours.

In extreme cases, the court can simply end a parent’s obligation to pay child support if that parent has no income, no assets, and no way of obtaining employment in the foreseeable future.

But as any Bucks County family law attorney can tell you, the court will only modify payments in situations where a change in financial circumstance is something that’s beyond the parent’s control. If a parent’s only source of income is Supplemental Security Income or another form of cash assistance, the law does not allow the court to require them to pay child support.

If the court finds that someone has deliberately avoided work, they can still require that parent to pay the same amount of child support in the original order.

3. Changes in state child support guidelines

Judges use a state guideline to determine the amount of child support a parent should pay. The state bases this guideline on the average costs of raising a child in households with a certain income level. But these costs will change as time goes on, so the law requires the state to update its guidelines to match real world child rearing costs. If this update is significant enough, it can affect the amount of child support you or your ex-spouse needs to pay.

4. Changes in custody

Custody arrangements play an important role in setting child support payments. Typically, the parent with primary custody is the one receiving child support payments. When two parents have joint custody, the parent who has the higher net income is the one required to pay child support. Therefore, a change in custody arrangements may necessitate a change in child support.

Divorces are always stressful, and the process of working out custody and child support can only add to the tension. If you’re looking for a Bucks County family law attorney who can help you navigate this world, contact Penglase and Benson.

Our lawyers can help you deal with modifications to child support payments, making sure the best interests of your children are protected.