A Child Support Modification form is used to make changes to a court-ordered child support agreement. Child Support Modifications are usually used when one parent’s financial or living circumstances have changed since the original agreement, and they wish to make changes to things like visitation, child support payments, or even custody.
Either parent can request changes using a Child Support Modification Form, but there are no guarantees the modifications will be accepted by the court or child support services.
1. What is a Child Support Modification?
A child support modification agreement is a change to the court-ordered child support agreement between the parties that is currently in place. At the time when the initial child support agreement is ordered, each party’s life situation is considered when deciding the monthly amount of payment. However, the court understands that life situations can change and modification of the child support agreement allows one or both parties to ask for permanent or temporary changes to the original child support agreement.
When both parents can come to an amicable agreement about child support issues, they may want to draw up a modification of child support agreement. This agreement would stipulate the new child support amount that both parties agree to and set the date for payments each month.
This arrangement allows you to continue to make payments on time, at a rate you can afford, until a court date can be arranged. In some states, family court dates may take an extended period of time. Payments will still need to be made during those months.
Remember, that in order to be official and enforceable, the actual modification of child support needs to be agreed to by the court that ordered your original child support payments.
Sample Child Support Modification Letter
The sample child support modification below details an agreement between parents ‘Barry Nolan’ and ‘Diana Wang.’ The two parents agree to an adjustment in child support payments and details how costs from child-rearing will be distributed between the two.
3. When a Child Support Modification is Needed
There are a number of different reasons that you might need a modification of child support. Here are a few of the top situations where a child support modification might be called for:
- The original child support agreement seems unfair. In some cases, the original child support agreement may seem unfair. The judge looks at the information available at the time that child support is awarded. If that information isn’t representative of your earnings and responsibilities year round, it may be more difficult to continue with the current awarded agreement. One example might be if your child support agreement was awarded during a busy period at work where your checks reflect a higher rate of pay/more hours than is standard. If this is the case, you can petition for modification of child support and bring your records to ask that the payment amount be reduced. The same is true if the payments seem too low due to similar circumstances.
- Employment status has changed. Life is uncertain. There are situations where you might be laid off of work or unemployed for extended periods. If your income or employment has changed significantly, you can petition to have child support modified on a temporary basis. Once your employment status is more permanent, you can have the child support modified again to reflect your new income.
- Earnings have changed. Some people can see great fluctuations in the amount they earn, especially in uncertain economic times. If your or your ex-spouse’s earnings have changed significantly, you can petition to have child support modified to better reflect your current economic situation.
- Life situation/marital status has changed. Situational changes, such as a new relationship or marriage, can directly impact your financial resources. If one or both parties has a situational change that impacts the ability to pay child support, modification can be requested.
- Children’s ages and needs have changed. Children grow up and their needs may change dramatically. In cases where the child no longer lives at home, is away at college, or is otherwise no longer dependent on the parent, child support may need to be stopped or modified accordingly.
- Medical or other unforeseeable circumstances. In the event that the child is diagnosed with a medical or mental health issue that means extra financial responsibilities, child support modification may be petitioned to help cover the expenses.
- Child now lives with the other parent. There are situations where the parents decide that the child should live with the noncustodial parent. This might be because the school district is better or for other reasons. But the original agreement of payment will still be enforced until you petition for modification. This means that one parent may be responsible for paying child support even though the child is currently living with them full time.
4. Why Do I Need a Child Support Modification?
The immediate consequence of not having a modification is that the initial order of child support will stay enforceable. If your life circumstances have changed, you’ll still be responsible for making child support payments at the previously agreed upon amount in a timely manner. You will also still owe the payments if you fall behind. Those debts never go away – even in a case where you declare bankruptcy, that debt is still owed until it’s paid in full.
In most states, there are penalties for lapsing on child support payments. The penalties may vary from state to state, but some common consequences include the following:
- Suspension of driver’s license. In some states, driver’s licenses can be suspended, which can interfere with your ability to work. Other licenses may also be suspended, including special work licenses and leisure licensing, such as hunting or fishing.
- Warrant for arrest issued. Lapsing in child support can result in arrest in some states. The charges might be criminal or civil, depending on the laws in the area.
- Contempt of court. A judge may find you in contempt of court for chronically missing child support payments. Contempt charges indicate that the party is guilty of not obeying the court order. Being found in contempt might be punished by fines or even a jail sentence.
- Wage garnishment. Your wages can be garnished or taken out of your paycheck in order to pay child support. Garnishment might include unemployment checks and checks issued by workman’s compensation.
- Tax refunds may be withheld. Your tax refunds may be seized to pay your back child support.
- Liens put on property. You can have liens put on homes and property you own if you owe back child support. This may include properties you inherit from family members or any property you own in the future.
5. Process of Applying for Modification of Child Support
It’s important that you pay attention to the laws in your specific state because they do vary somewhat on issues of child support and modification.
For example, in the state of Illinois, you can apply for a modification of child support if you haven’t had the order modified in the previous three years. You can also petition for modification if there are changes to your life circumstances.
The state of Illinois places a three-year standard period on modification because they believe that life situations can change significantly in that period for a child and parents. Essentially, you don’t need to have proof of changing life situations in order to seek a modification after three years. However, you should note that the judge may find that child support should be lowered if the other party shows a loss of income or there are other factors.
In the state of Florida, child support agreements are always modifiable. You can petition for modified support if you believe the change would be greater than $50 or 15%. However, some other states may discourage too many modifications by placing limitations on how often you can apply.
The process of applying may differ slightly from state to state. Generally, you should meet a basic standard – you need to be able to show that there are circumstances that warrant a change in your child support payment agreement.
Child support modification will also often not touch other issues. For example, modification agreements won’t discuss spousal support or visitation agreements. Those issues are dealt with separately in many states.
Steps to have child support modified:
- Create a child support modification agreement. If both parties agree to a new child support payment, you can draw this agreement up and have it signed and notarized. You still need to apply for modification and go before a judge to make it legal, but this will help with the process.
- Fill out court forms. Depending on the state, the form you need to fill out might be titled something like, “Complaint for Modification of Child Support”. You’ll need to go to the court where the original child support was ordered to fill out the forms.
- Review your forms. Make certain all information on these forms is accurate to the best of your knowledge.
- File with the court clerk. You must file your forms with the clerk in order to be awarded a court date.
- Serve the other parent notice. The other parent must be notified of the court date.
- File proof of service. This lets the court know that both parties are notified of the date of court.
Once you go in front of the judge, you’ll need to provide evidence that there has been a significant shift in circumstances which warrants a change in the child support agreement.
If both parties agree to a modified child support agreement, the judge will then change the child support order. You must go before a judge to have the order changed legally. If both parties don’t agree, modifying the child support agreement is still possible. You will need to bring all of your records to make certain the judge can see how exactly the circumstances have changed to merit a new order. The judge will decide based on the records presented whether or not to grant the child support modification order.