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Valid Reasons for Child Support Adjustments

Child support orders can be modified as circumstances change for parents and children.

Child support orders

Child support is a payment that is sometimes ordered by the court when two parents have children but do not live together. Child support payments ensure the children have financial support from both parents, whether they are primarily with one parent or in a shared custody situation.

Child support is intended to cover:

  • Rent, mortgage, or other housing payments
  • Medical expenses
  • Everyday items like food, clothing, toys, and furniture
  • School expenses
  • Extracurricular activity expenses

Child support isn’t an automatic part of a divorce settlement. If you and your ex share custody of your children and earn approximately the same income, child support payments may not be required.

Child support payments are commonly ordered for these reasons:

  • One parent does not have physical custody of the child
  • Joint physical custody is not divided evenly between the parents
  • One parent has a substantially higher income than the other parent

How are child support payments calculated?

Child support payments are calculated differently in every state. Some general factors the courts will consider in their calculations include:

  • The number of children involved
  • Each parent’s current income
  • Each parent’s earning potential
  • The amount of time each child spends living with each parent

Generally, two methods are used to calculate child support: an income shares model or an income percentage model. Depending on your state, different factors and calculation methods will determine who pays child support.

How is child support collected and enforced?

Child support payments are usually ordered as part of your divorce settlement. If you and your child’s parent were never married, child support is ordered by your local county court after you have filed a request.

Child support payments are frequently collected by withholding the ordered support amount from the obligated parent’s paycheck. In some situations, parents may make payments to one another directly.

If your co-parent is not paying their obligated child support payments, you must file a complaint with the court that issued the initial order. The court may then garnish wages, deny passports, withhold tax refunds, set liens on their property, or even suspend or revoke licenses to ensure compliance with the order.

How long does child support last?

A variety of circumstances could cause child support payments to cease. These are a few common circumstances that would end the need for child support payments:

  • Your child is no longer legally considered a minor
  • Your child becomes a military service member
  • The parental rights of the parent responsible for child support are terminated

Why would a child support order change?

Changes to a child support order are not uncommon, as life circumstances frequently change for parents and children. Modifications to child support can be negotiated directly between the two parents. However, the change must still be documented in a new child support order filed with and signed by the court. If you and your child’s other parent can’t agree on a change in child support, you must file a motion with the court.

Decrease in income

If one parent loses their job, they may be unable to meet child support obligations. Child support payments may be temporarily modified until that parent can find another job. Other situations causing a decreased income may be a parent becoming disabled or incarcerated. Another factor may be that a parent is a Reservist or National Guard member who is newly activated, resulting in a change of income.

Increase in income

If one parent experiences a substantial increase in income, the other parent may petition the court for an increase in child support payments. This increase will ensure the child’s standard of living is equivalent to the standard they would have had with the other parent.

New expenses for the child or change in the child’s residence

Children’s needs change all the time, especially as they grow. Increasing expenses for schooling or medical work, such as new extracurricular activities or orthodontics, are common reasons to modify a child support agreement. Also, as children grow, the amount of time they spend with each parent may fluctuate, and this change in living arrangements may necessitate an adjustment to the child support order.

New family responsibilities for a parent

When a parent remarries and becomes responsible for supporting new children, they may be able to petition the court for a reduction in child support payments. In this case, the parent must ensure they can financially support all children involved. Of course, this can work in reverse, depending on the state in which you reside. If a parent remarries, this may increase his or her income, which could lead to an increase in monthly child support payments.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) clause

A Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) clause may be in the original child support order. This adjustment means child support payments may increase or decrease each year following the annual Cost of Living. If not, you may request a modification based on the Cost of Living.

The laws regarding child support are complicated and vary by state. We recommend contacting an experienced family law attorney for more specific help and information regarding child support laws in your area.

As an all-in-one co-parenting communication service, TalkingParents can help you track and manage child support through Accountable Payments. Each request and payment is timestamped for accountability, and you can even schedule recurring payments. Records of your payments cannot be edited or deleted, giving you full clarity and transparency for all child custody related payments. With many other tools to help you keep all things co-parenting documented and organized, TalkingParents can make your co-parenting journey more manageable.

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