Modification of Child Support and Time Sharing Law
Child support orders can be modified to meet changed needs in the parents' or child's life. Either parent can petition the court for a modification. The court will then determine whether there has been a significant and material change in circumstances either concerning the child's needs or the payor parent's ability to financially meet his or her obligations.
Change in Employment
One type of change in circumstances that may warrant a modification of child support is the loss of a job. If the payor parent was fired or laid off, his or her support obligations may be temporarily lowered or stopped until the parent can find new employment.
However, if the parent elected to take a lower paying job, the court may be reluctant to modify the amount of child support. Parents with child support obligations who voluntarily leave high paying jobs for lower paying ones may be viewed suspiciously. If the change was not done in good faith, the court may believe the parent did it as a means to lower the support payments. In such a case, the court may decide to set the amount of child support according to the parent's earning capacity rather than actual income.
Conversely, if the payor parent accepts new employment with a higher salary, is awarded a bonus or receives other forms of increased compensation, the parent receiving the support payments may seek an increase in support.
Jurisdictions differ in their treatment of child support obligations when the payor parent remarries. In some jurisdictions, courts will reduce the amount of the payments when the parent remarries and has additional children. In these states, the courts consider the total support obligations to all of the children, and not just to the children from the prior marriage.
Other jurisdictions, however, will not lower support payments if the payor parent remarries and has additional children. These courts reason that the previous children should not be punished because the parent elected to take on more familial responsibility.
Other circumstances also may warrant a modification to a child support order, such as:
- Disability of the parent or child
- Heath expenses of the parent or child
- Educational expenses
- Temporary economic hardship of the parent
- Increased cost of living
The parents cannot act independently to change the amount of child support. The parties must petition the court which will then determine whether the support order will be modified. Parents who decide to stop paying support or who pay less than required may be held in contempt of court or face other penalties. Even if a parent has lost his or her job and has no income, he or she must go to court to request a modification of the child support order. The basis for modification is a substantial change in circumstances that was unanticipated at the time the final judgement was entered into.