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How can you modify your child support payments?

Child support is one of the thorniest issues between couples. Whether you pay it or receive it, the odds are good that you aren't happy with the amount.

Is it possible to get the amount changed? Maybe. Short of agreements written into the divorce that change the amount based on things like the cost of living, your ability to easily obtain a modified support amount depends on a couple things:

1. Has there been a change in your circumstances?

Child support is calculated using a formula that takes into consideration the income of both parents. If either parent has a significant change in income, it may be appropriate to modify an old agreement.

What counts as a significant change? A small increase in the payer's hourly wages or a small decrease in the recipient's number of hours at work isn't usually enough. Instead, look toward events with a bigger financial impact:

  • A layoff or permanent job loss
  • A period of injury or illness without work
  • The recipient begins living with someone in an intimate relationship
  • The recipient gains new employment with far greater wages
  • Either person becomes disabled
  • A new child is born to the payer
  • One or more of the children being supported develops special needs not already addressed

There are always other possible events that can trigger a need for modification. Just keep in mind that the court typically only wants to hear about big changes.

2. Does the other parent agree to the change?

Ideally, the other parent will be reasonable about the requested change. It's generally in the best interests of both parties to try to compromise. If you fail, that means both of you have to go to the expense and trouble of trying to get the agreement changed in court.

In addition, the judge may come up with a figure that's wholly unsatisfying and which may be worse than you can work out on your own.

Approach your ex about the requested changes with documentation in hand. Be prepared to give a little in order to avoid a big legal fight over the amount of child support. If that fails, however, the courts remain an option.

Source: LiveAbout, "4 Reasons to Request a Modification of Alimony," Cathy Meyer, accessed May 23, 2018

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