Child support is a recurring monetary payment meant to help support a child or children whose parents are no longer living together. Factors taken into consideration include:
- Custody Arrangement: Child support payments are almost always ordered to be paid to the parent that has been granted custody of the child. This is because the custodial parent will naturally incur more expenses related to the child (e.g. food, clothing, extracurricular activities).
- Lifestyle Prior to Separation: In situations where the child lived with both parents prior to the parents’ separation, the court will consider the lifestyle that the child was accustomed to when the parents were together in order to minimize disruption in the child’s life. For example, in the case of a child who has always attended an expensive private school, the court will likely order that the non-custodial parent provide enough financial support to allow the child to continue in the same type of school environment.
- Income of the Parties: The court will require both parents to submit proof of their total income so that each parent’s financial means can be used to determine how much support should be paid.
The overarching goal in entering custody or child support orders is to do what is in the best interest of the child.
What Does a Child Support Order Usually Contain?
A child support order will declare which parent is ordered to pay support, the monthly amount due, obligations to help pay for daycare or provide health insurance, and a termination date for the payments. Child support orders involving multiple children will usually lay out the dates when the child support obligation will lessen based on one or more children reaching the age of majority.
The order will also almost always contain a brief summary of the consequences for non-payment and an overview of what must be done to alter the child support order.
Can Child Support Be Lowered or Changed Because of Financial Circumstances?
A child support order can change over time as a result of changing circumstances. If the paying parent thinks that the amount of child support should be reduced, they can request a child support reduction. A reduction is most often ordered due to changes in a parent’s financial situation (loss of job, etc.).
How often a child support order can be altered is almost always limited, usually by requiring a certain period of time to pass before a change can be requested. This is because if there were no limits on how often an order can be updated, the courts would be completely overloaded with modification requests from parents not satisfied with the order entered.
How Can I Get My Child Support Payment Lowered?
In order to change child support payments, a parent must file a Motion to Modify. This is a formal request asking the courts to consider changing the child support order previously entered. The court is not required to grant the Motion to Modify, and usually requires proof that circumstances have changed substantially enough to warrant the change.
Requests to lower child support payments are most often granted as a result of:
- Changes in Income: Usually if the paying parent’s income is substantially less than when the child support obligation was calculated. This could be after the parent loses a job, becomes incarcerated, or becomes disabled.
- Changes in the Custody Arrangement: Modifications will also frequently be granted if the custody arrangement changes so that the paying parent naturally incurs more routine expenses to support the child.
- Change in Costs Taken into Consideration: A steep increase in health insurance costs could mean that a paying parent’s monthly child support payment will be lowered to reflect that.
What Else Should I Know About Lowering Child Support for Financial Reasons?
A parent may also be able to get the amount of child support lowered as a result of increased educational or extracurricular costs. If the parent can provide proof that they are now paying significantly more each month for such an expense, then the court may consider lowering the monthly child support payment.
The courts may also lower a parent’s child support obligation if additional children are born to the parent. Most states assess child support obligations based on the idea that a certain percentage of the parent’s income should go towards supporting their children. If the calculation was based on having a single child, and that parent later has children with a new spouse, then the amount of their income that the courts feel should go towards supporting children must now be spread out between all of the children.
What Happens if a Child Support Order is Violated?
A parent who is ordered to pay child support will face several consequences if they don’t pay, including:
- Fines, jail, or both
- Garnishment of wages, including unemployment and worker’s compensation
- Seizure of tax refunds
- Revocation of passport
- Suspension, revocation or denial of various licenses — professional, driver’s, hunting/fishing/boating
Should I Hire an Attorney if I Want to Lower My Child Support Payments?
While it is possible to get your child support payments lowered on your own, it is usually a good idea to at least consult an attorney before attempting so. Hiring a child support lawyer to seek the reduction in child support for you will almost always result in a quicker and more successful result.