Child support can be modified by agreement or by a court. A party may resist negotiating to change child support unless there is a basis for a court to change child support. So, whether you are trying to negotiate a change in child support, it is helpful to have an understanding of the law for modifying child support orders.
A court will not consider modifying child support unless there is a sufficient basis. The law lists three basic tests to modify support: passage of three years, 15% change in income or a substantial change of circumstances.
The first test is the easiest: have three years elapsed since the order? If so, a court can modify the order. The second test is income-based, has either party experienced a 15% up or down income change? Of course, a downward change in a parties’ income “shall not be considered as a ground for modification unless it was involuntary and the party has made diligent attempts to secure employment commensurate with his or her education, ability or experience.”
At the time of a child support agreement, these first two modification tests can be deleted or changed: the three years could be changed to seven, or six months or removed entirely. Same with the 15%, it can be 2% or 90% or removed altogether. Other factors may be inserted by the parties, such as recalculation when a child enters college.
The third reason for modification, a substantial change in circumstances, is necessarily vague and open to the specific circumstances of the case. A judge will determine whether the claimed changed in circumstances is sufficient to review and change child support.
Often child support is changed when spousal support ends, so a termination of a spousal maintenance (alimony) obligation is accompanied by a change to child support.
Once there is a basis for modification, the questions becomes whether child support should be changed, and if so, how. Contact me and we can start working on your situation.