Child support after divorce is an integral part of keeping your family afloat. Whether you pay or receive it, it goes directly to making sure your child lives a healthy and well-rounded life. However, times may change, and paying child support may grow difficult. Read on to learn more about:
Reasons to Change an Existing Payment: Staying Afloat and Keeping Things Fair;
The Ways to Alter Agreements and How Proceedings Work; and
Showing Material Changes with Expert Legal Help.
When There’s a Change in Circumstances: Why You May Choose to Alter Your Arrangement
The end of a divorce and its subsequent agreement may feel like it has an air of finality to it. Even though it seems this way, it isn’t; divorce agreements change all the time. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it by any means an ‘easy’ process, but if you have the evidence to back up your claims that things need to change, the court will hear and possibly approve your request.
It’s important to note that either party—the one paying or the one receiving child support—may file for a change. There are many factors that may occur on both sides that’ll lead to you making a case. Whether you feel like you’re paying too much or receiving too little, you have a voice in the legal system.
The following are a few reasons why someone may request a change in child support:
If either you or your spouse sees an increase or decrease in income, you may have a material reason for an increase or decrease in child support;
Something happens to your child that makes basic care more expensive over time; or
Your circumstances change drastically (i.e., you need to move for work, lose your job and need to seek additional income support, or suffer an injury of your own), and you have a need for an increase or decrease.
Regardless of why you need to change child support, you’ll have the opportunity to review your agreement every three years through the Office of Child Support Enforcement. However, there are situations and changes in circumstances that the office or court won’t accept. Namely, any voluntary impoverishment—a conscious effort to lower one’s income—will not lead to success in obtaining a decrease in support payments. This is set in US legal precedent, so if you attempt to present a change in income that was purely voluntary, you probably won’t have much luck.
Going Through the Proper Channels to Change Your Payments
The Department of Human Services Child Support Administration handles most matters relating to paying and receiving parents and their children. We mentioned earlier that you must go through the Enforcement office to initiate a review of your child support order; either you or your former spouse may file for this every three years.
However, your other option is filing through court—which is not bound by time like the previous option. Instead, you have the freedom to motion to modify whenever you’d like. Don’t let this opportunity deceive you, though. Even though you have free reign to motion at any time, going through court is still a challenging process. Did you stand in front of a judge during your divorce? If so, you probably know that being in a courtroom is not an ideal place to discuss your future.
Like in normal divorce proceedings, if you take a modification request to court, it usually signifies neither you nor your ex-spouse could agree on terms and have left the decision in the hands of a judge. All aspects of divorce—from property division, visitation, and child support—lie in the hands of the judge, who eventually makes a decision after hearing both sides of the case. Take those same stakes and boil it down to your need to change your child support payments, and you have got another highly charged court appearance on your hands.
A court can enforce a child support order at any time. If, for some reason, you are unable to make a payment, your ex-spouse may use the courts to help them in their pursuit of child support. Therefore, it is important to take the step to change your arrangement and fill out a petition to modify your child support.
Of course, there’s more to this process; though you do not need a lawyer to represent you in child support-related claims, it may be best to have someone in your corner who can help shape your claim and represent your interests—in addition to filling out all the necessary additional paperwork.
Getting Legal Assistance in Your Child Support Case
Demonstrating a substantial change in your circumstances may sound easy if you know your life backwards-and-front. The difficulty comes in who you’re trying to convince: a judge, who’s also hearing an argument from your ex-spouse’s side.
Showing that a substantial change in your circumstances when coupled with child support payments will prove burdensome should not be hard. You know your life and its details: you’re steps away from proving materiality. A skilled family lawyer can add the finishing touches and aggressive arguments to round it out.
We have used the word “material” a few times in this post but haven’t defined it. Anything material means it is significant to a given case. For example, if you’re arguing for decreasing your child support payments, the fact you lost your job and did not have a steady income is a material fact. On the other hand, something like your car breaking down may not be—unless maybe it’s a part of a larger chain of more material circumstances.
Once you tell your lawyer your story, they will figure out the best way to tell it to a judge. It’s important to communicate every detail you can so they have as much ammunition as possible when arguing on your behalf. Your lawyer may also advise you on certain aspects of your case as it relates to what you say and do in and out of court. Though it is not a divorce proceeding, you still need to keep in mind your appearance. Behavior outside the court may still be relevant inside if it pertains to supporting your family.