Child support payments are monthly payments that are typically court-ordered when a child’s parents are no longer living together. The court will determine the amount of child support that needs to be paid and can legally enforce the child support order if one of the parents violates it.

The court will set the amount based on a state formula, along with certain circumstantial factors that they will consider. These include the income of the paying parent or if the child has special needs.

When a paying parent’s ability to pay is affected for some reason, they may be able to request to have the child support order modified. It is important to note, however, that the court may not always grant their request.

What are Alimony Payments?

Alimony payments, also known as spousal support, are financial payments that are made by one spouse to the other when the couple has entered into a legal separation or are divorced. Unlike child support payments, alimony payments are not set according to a state formula.

Instead, a court will order the amount of alimony support based on a number of factors, such as the ability of the paying spouse to make payments, the financial background of both parties, and the type of alimony (e.g., temporary alimony or rehabilitative alimony) that is suitable for the spouses’ situation. 

Spousal support orders can be modified or terminated by an order from the court. Whether or not the alimony payments can be adjusted, however, will depend on the facts surrounding the matter.

Is it Possible to Modify My Child Support and Alimony Payments?

As a general rule, a person is normally permitted to modify their court-ordered child support and alimony payments. The law grants high priority to family payments ordered due to a divorce, however, so obtaining a modification can sometimes be quite a challenge. 

Therefore, if you are seeking an order to modify your child support and alimony payments, then you should consider consulting with a family law attorney for further legal advice about your matter. An attorney will be able to guide you through the process more efficiently. 

Why is it so Difficult to Modify My Family Support Payments?

When a person has a child, they are legally responsible for the safety and well-being of that child. This legal duty includes the responsibility to provide financial support for the child until they reach the age of majority, which is usually when the child turns 18. 

Due to this legal duty, child support payments cannot be discharged under certain circumstances, such as bankruptcy. For example, if a parent is attempting to stop or reduce child support payments because they have filed for bankruptcy, the court will not take the bankruptcy situation into consideration. The parent will still be liable for child support payments.

Furthermore, child support payments that are overdue, or alternatively, alimony payments previously ordered by the court, cannot be reduced or adjusted. 

Failing to make family related support payments can result in the attachment of the person’s wages (i.e., garnishment of wages), loss of their driver license, have liens placed on that person’s property, and they can even be held for punishment for being in contempt of court

How Can I Modify My Family Support Payments?

Child support and alimony payments can generally be reduced by filing a “motion to modify” at a person’s local state family courthouse. If it has been several years since the initial court order for family support payments, the chances of having the request for modification granted are greater. 

Even if it has been several years, however, a person’s situation must have changed “substantially and continuously,” in order to qualify for a modification. “Substantially and continuously” changed circumstances can include: 

  • Loss of job; 
  • Extra health insurance payments;
  • Unexpected educational expenses; 
  • If the other parent begins to make more money; 
  • Increased day care costs or travel costs; 
  • A decrease in the amount of time spent with the child; or 
  • When someone’s income has been reduced such that it “deviates substantially” (more than 20% in some states) from child support guidelines. 

If any of these changed circumstances occur, the person will need to argue them in a hearing held at their local state family court. Otherwise, the person responsible for support payments may lose the opportunity to have the payments reduced or terminated.

A person can also modify their child support or alimony support payments by entering into a mutual agreement with their former spouse. Any agreement made should be in writing and signed by both parties (e.g., the spouses or parents).

If the parties reach a mutual agreement to modify, then a court hearing is not necessary, but both parties must file an uncontested motion to modify the relevant family support payments. 

Do I Need an Attorney to Help Modify My Family Support Payments?

Family support payments have a direct impact on not only you, but also your spouse and your children. Aside from the emotional difficulties it can cause within your family, modifying a child support plan, alimony payments, or both, can be a stressful and complex process on its own. 

Thus, if you are attempting to file a request to modify your family support payments, it may be in your best interest to contact a local family law attorney for assistance. While it is possible to file the motion and represent yourself in court without an attorney, it is not recommended. 

An experienced family law attorney will be able to provide guidance regarding the laws of your state that could affect the modification request, as well as any complications that may arise and are specifically related to your individual circumstances. 

Additionally, an attorney can properly assess your situation and present a convincing case in court for modification of your family support payments.