Child support is the amount of money a court orders a non-custodial parent to pay a custodial parent—the parent taking physical care of the child. Child support payments are intended to help financially support the custodial parent in raising the couple’s child.

Can Child Support Be Lowered for Changed Financial Circumstances?

In order to lower child support for changed financial circumstances, the parent paying the support must justify the modification because of their inability to pay. Generally, an inability to pay child support will occur in two ways:

  1. Decrease in income or assets.
  2. Increase in the court-ordered child support amount.

In determining whether a modification is justified, a court is required to balance the best interests of the child, the court’s earlier decisions, the desire to avoid unnecessary litigation, and the financial burdens that each parent faces. In doing so, a court will consider several factors in deciding if lowering child support is justified because of changed financial circumstances. These include whether or not the changed financial circumstances:

  • Are material
  • Are substantial
  • Were involuntary, or voluntary but in good faith
  • Are continuous and not temporary
  • Occurred after or were not contemplated at the time that the child support amount was established

In addition to the non-custodial parent’s inability to pay child support, an increase in the custodial parent's income may also justify a reduction in the amount of child support.

Are There Any Defenses?

In an attempt to lower child support for changed financial circumstances, there are generally two defenses available:

  • The non-custodial parent's changed financial circumstances do not justify a reduction.
  • The non-custodial parent still has the ability to pay the existing child support despite their changed financial circumstances.

What’s the Result?

If a non-custodial parent is able to justify lowering child support because of changed financial circumstances, a court will usually order a new child support amount to be paid to the custodial parent. The new amount will generally be appropriate in light of the decreased ability to pay, which stems from the changed financial circumstances.

Do I Need a Family lawyer?

If you think your child support payments should be lowered because of your changed financial circumstances, or you are trying to maintain your current child support revenue from an attempt to lower them, it is strongly recommended that you contact a child support attorney. Only they will be able to fully explain the issues that you are facing to you and help defend your rights, both in and out of court.