The divorce process consists of many difficult choices. In addition to the division of marital assets, one of the most difficult decisions revolves around child custody agreements. Establishing which spouse should receive custody of the children and which spouse is responsible for paying child support are sources of tension for many parents.
As difficult as it is for parents to go through the courts for child support orders, the good news is that child support orders are not set in stone. There are situations where a child support order can be modified, and the Charlotte child support lawyers from Epperson Law Group, PLLC, discuss them in today’s blog.
How the North Carolina courts establish child support
Before establishing an official child support order, the courts use several factors to determine how much the non-custodial spouse will pay. Some of the factors used are the gross monthly income of both parents, the custody schedule, and the number of children. Because any of these factors can change over time, child support orders are also subject to change. If a parent wants to modify the child support order, he or she is welcome to do so, but only when experiencing a significant changes in circumstances.
How can a parent change a child support order?
When a parent is ready to modify their child support order, they can file a motion with the court. One of the easiest ways to modify a child support order is for both parents to reach a mutual agreement about the new amount, and work with a family law attorney to have that agreement filed with the court.
In the event the parents can’t come to agreement, the court must review the request for the aforementioned “significant change in circumstances.”
Significant changes needed to modify a child support order
One of the significant changes that can lead to a modification of a child support order is a change in the child’s needs. A change in a child’s needs can either increase or decrease the amount of child support. For example, a child could develop a medical condition and require additional support to pay for increased medical expenses. On the other hand, a child could enter preschool or kindergarten and no longer need a portion of child support for daycare expenses.
Another significant change taken into consideration when determining a child support order modification is an involuntary change in the parent’s employment. An example of this would be when the parent is laid off or experiences a mandatory reduction in work hours. Millions of parents experienced furloughs and reductions in regular work hours last year. When a parent experiences a significant change in employment, it is in their best interest to file a motion and modify their child support order as soon as possible.
What if a parent quits their job or chooses to reduce their income by choice?
If a parent decides to reduce their income by choice, the court will not consider their request for a modification in child support. Some examples of a parent reducing their income by choice include voluntarily quitting their job, getting fired from their job, or accepting a lower-paying job.
If you want to modify a child support order under these conditions, you must prove to the courts that the child’s needs have also decreased. Some of the factors that you must prove when requesting a modification are a reduced ability to pay, a reduction in the child’s needs, and that the decrease in income did not occur from your voluntary actions. If all of these factors cannot be proven, the child support order will not be modified.
Can changes in a child’s physical custody justify a child support order modification?
Another significant change that is sufficient enough for a child support modification is a change in the child’s physical custody. A change in where the child is living can influence whether a child support payment should increase or decrease. For example, if a child who recently lived with the mother moves in with the father, the mother may now be responsible for child support because the father currently has custody of the child.
Another significant change that can influence a child support order modification is when one child is no longer eligible. Parents who are paying child support for multiple children are entitled to ask for a modification when one of the children turns 18 and is no longer eligible for support.
Can a child support order be modified after a parent has remarried?
When one or both of the parents remarry, the new spouse’s income is not considered when child support payments are being calculated. A new spouse’s income plays a minimal role because the income only helps to reduce the parent’s additional expenses, like consumable goods for the house. Because some of the parent’s income is freed, the courts can use the parent’s free income to calculate any additional child support payments.
Although these are some of the common reasons for a child support order modification, there are many other circumstances that warrant a modification of a child support order. When considering filing for a modification in a child support order, keep in mind if circumstances have changed enough to justify the modification.
If you need quality and skilled representation for child support and custody issues, the attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC, are ready to talk. Our family law attorneys dedicate their work to protecting the rights of children and families during difficult times and advocating for their best interests. To reserve a consultation at one of our offices in Charlotte, Boone, Concord, or Weddington, please call 704-321-0031, or complete a contact form.