Modifying your Child Support and Alimony Payments

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 How Can You Modify Your Child Support Payments?

In various courts, child support change does not occur automatically. One of the parents needs to request the court to modify the child support order, using a written motion, a formal request to the court. Most states have forms available for easy access on their court’s website.

Remember that the court that makes the original child support award can modify the order if the parties’ situations materially change. “Material” refers to the change that matters and is relevant to the situation. Either parent (the parent who pays or the person who receives the payment) may ask the court to modify the order while the child is under age 18.

What Situations Might Cause a Change in Support?

First, you must demonstrate that the facts, as they existed at the time of the last child support order, have altered. During the many years while a child support order is in place, the parent’s circumstances may change many times.

For instance, in Maryland, if one parent’s income has changed (either gone up or down) by at least 25%, this is considered a modification to warrant changing the support order. You may request a modification if your income has changed to a lesser amount, but you are not guaranteed a change in the support order.

Many different events can cause different circumstances. For example, if the paying parent has had a large increase in income, the court can mandate raising the child support order. Or, if the child’s necessities change, such as if the child becomes sick or disabled, the court can increase the amount of support. In some cases, time passing itself alters situations. For instance, as a child matures, buying clothes, food, and other items becomes more expensive. More expenses can justify increasing child support payments.

Support can also be reduced if the paying parent proves this would be fair. For example, support payments may be reduced if the parent who has custody over the child inherits money, gets a large raise, or otherwise has an increased ability to support the child. Or, if the paying parent loses employment, the court can be informed to reduce support during unemployment. Other examples of changed scenarios include becoming disabled or being sentenced to jail or prison.

Usually, this implies that at least one of these things has taken place:

  • The noncustodial parent’s income has either increased or decreased;
  • The noncustodial parent is legally responsible for additional children;
  • The child(ren)’s medical insurance coverage has changed;
  • The child(ren)’s living arrangements have altered and;
  • For some parents, military activation will reduce total monthly income. Being called to active duty is considered a material and substantial change in circumstances and permits you to request a review of your child support order.

Changes to support orders typically become effective no earlier than the date that the modification petition is filed. This entails that unless you could not file the modification petition because of happenings beyond your control, changes to support orders cannot be applied to the period before you filed the petition.

Therefore, the parties must petition the court as soon as possible after experiencing a change in circumstances. Any changes to a support order will return to the date the petition to modify was started unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties.

What is Spousal Support or Alimony?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a court-ordered money payment to support a spouse. Maintenance or “temporary maintenance” is support ordered to be paid for an ex-spouse or while a divorce case is pending in court. Recently, regulations across the state took effect, setting presumptive amounts and length of time for maintenance after a divorce. These guidelines are presumed to be the correct amounts and periods, but the court maintains the discretion to order different amounts if the court provides explanations.

For instance, spousal support orders are usually granted in Family Court, although temporary maintenance payments can be ordered as part of a divorce in the Supreme Court in New York. The term “support” is most often utilized in Family Court, while the term “maintenance” is used in the Supreme Court, which handles divorce cases.

The Supreme Court orders maintenance in a divorce action. Generally, the Family Court will have jurisdiction to modify or enforce that order after the divorce is completed. The above guidelines may change depending on your jurisdiction and where you reside.

How Do You Modify Alimony Payments?

If you have an active support case in domestic relations and need a portion or all of your order changed, you have several options depending on your situation. If parties agree, you can send in a written agreement, signed by both parties, which states the effective date of the modification, and what is to be modified (example: the modified amount, added daycare amount, etc.).

Usually, there is no filing fee for agreements. However, if there is no agreement, one of the parties may file a Petition to Modify, requesting the court to schedule the matter for a conference to decide whether or not the support order should be altered. You may file a petition on your own or seek out an attorney. Keep in mind that a support order can be changed if there is a substantial change in circumstances. The person requesting a change must file a modification petition explaining the change in circumstances. If the support was scheduled by an agreement (a contract made by the spouses), you would need more than just a “substantial change” for a modification.

Are there Time Limits on Spousal Support Payments?

The judge can limit how long one must pay maintenance. Now, there is a formula for this reference the following:

  • For a marriage lasting up to 15 years, maintenance is expected to last 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage;
  • For marriages lasting 15 to 20 years, maintenance is expected to last 30% to 40% of the length of the marriage and;
  • For marriages lasting more than 20 years, maintenance is expected to last 35% to 50% of the length of the marriage.

If the recipient’s former spouse remarries or either spouse dies, the payments will also terminate. However, the court may not limit how long support is due for a current spouse.

Can Alimony Payments be Taxed?

In New York, spousal support payments or maintenance are taxable income to the person who receives support. Specific tax laws may apply differently to each scenario, depending on your state. Generally, they are deductible from taxable income by the person who pays support. If child support and spousal support are not given separately, then the whole amount is considered spousal support for tax purposes.

On a side note, you will only pay tax on income exceeding the annual amounts the IRS allowed for exemptions and deductions. If the recipient is very low income, there may be no tax due. Under the 2017 Tax Reform Act, this rule changed, but the new rules will only apply in cases started (or Separation Agreements signed) after December 31, 2018. For future agreements and divorces, payments are no longer deductible by the payor spouse. Moreover, the recipient spouse will not have to pay taxes for support payments.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you receive child support or alimony payments and are facing an issue regarding them. Seeking a local alimony attorney to assist you with the process is recommended.

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