Sometimes, an existing child support order needs to be modified. This is especially true when a parent’s income or a child’s needs change. Before you meet with a child support modification lawyer, you should prepare for your appointment. In order to understand your claim, the lawyer will need accurate and detailed information. While every lawyer has his or her own interview process, this is a list of common questions.
Why Do You Need to Modify Your Child Support Order?
Most states have specific rules about changing a child support order. Typically, you must show a significant change in circumstances. A change in circumstances may include evidence that:
- A child’s needs have changed,
- A parent has significantly increased income,
- A parent is now disabled,
- A parent has lost his or her job, or
- There is a change in the child’s cost of living.
Some states also impose waiting periods before the court will change a child support order. If you have an existing support order, the lawyer will need to review the document. And, if there is evidence that the current order is no longer appropriate, bring this evidence with you.
Do You or the Other Parent Owe Unpaid Child Support?
While you may be able to modify future child support, you typically cannot retroactively reduce your support payments. In other words, unpaid child support will not be decreased (or increased) due to changed circumstances. However, your child support lawyer may be able to help you collect unpaid child support.
Does Your Child Support Order Have a Cost of Living Clause?
Some child support orders include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) clause. If your support order contains a COLA clause, you may not need court approval to increase or decrease support payments. You should bring your existing support order with you to the appointment.
How Is Your Relationship Like With Your Child’s Other Parent?
If your relationship with your ex is amicable, it may be easier to modify your child support obligations. Sometimes, a lawyer can negotiate a modification without extended litigation. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including mediation, can also be helpful when parents cannot immediately agree on support payments. (During mediation, a neutral third party helps parents discuss and negotiate child support.) However, a judge must still approve all child support modifications.
Sometimes, negotiation and mediation are possible in a child support dispute. The relationship may simple be too combative. In order to tailor your legal strategy, the lawyer will need to understand how willing you are to collaborate and cooperate with your child’s other parent (and vice versa).
What Should I Bring to a Meeting with a Child Support Modification Lawyer?
It is important to bring any evidence you have to your appointment. This information will help the lawyer evaluate your claim and provide accurate advice. The lawyer may want to see:
- The child’s birth certificate,
- Any existing child support orders,
- Income information, including check stubs and tax forms,
- Evidence of your changed circumstances (such as medical records, bills, and other increased expenses),
- Information about the other parent’s income, and
- Any relevant communications between you and the other parent.
This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand your child support issue.
Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer is an important decision. For many parents, child support claims are too complicated to handle alone. A local child support lawyer can help you understand and protect your parental rights.