When a divorce is finalized, one parent is often ordered to pay a specific amount of money each month toward child support. As the years pass, however, this amount might not be appropriate any longer. It could be that the parents’ income has changed, that one is struggling with health problems, that the child’s needs have changed, or the parenting schedule has changed. In these cases, it is often possible to renegotiate your child support payments. Read on to find out why this might be the right thing to do and how to go about it.
Why Child Support Might Be Renegotiated
In most states, child support is determined based on a formula that is based on how much income each parent makes as well as how much time they spend with the child. In some cases, states might also consider the expenses that each parent has. When these factors change or when there are extenuating circumstances, it could be appropriate to ask for child support payments to be renegotiated.
For example, if you are the parent paying child support and you lose your job, you are expected to claim unemployment until you can get a new job. If the new job pays substantially less than the original job, it is reasonable to expect that your child support obligation might go down. Similarly, if you have to stop working due to a serious illness, you might not be responsible for paying as much child support as you did before. If you are the parent receiving child support and your income goes up or down, your ex’s child support obligation might change.
Another factor to consider is where the child is living. If, for example, the child was living most of the time with his or her mother, the father’s child support obligation will go down if the child moves in with him. While small fluctuations in custody arrangements or visitation should not necessitate a trip back to court, bigger changes in the living arrangements might.
Finally, if the child’s needs have gone up substantially, the amount of child support might need to be raised. A child who requires extensive medical care or one who an expensive special education program for a disability might need higher support payments so these can be paid for.
Talk to Your Child’s Other Parent
The first step in renegotiating child support payments is to talk to your child’s other parent, if possible. In general, it will be better if they hear it from you first rather than if they were to simply receive a document from the court. Try to keep the lines of communication open and talk about what is going on and why you need to try to renegotiate child support payments.
It is best to put all of your communication in writing. A verbal agreement that is not remembered accurately can cause strife in your relationship, and that can extend to the courtroom. It is fine to talk about it in person, but then send an email detailing what your conversation was about.
While the two of you might be able to come up with a temporary or permanent agreement on your own, it must be approved by the court in order to be legal. If your ex-spouse agrees to accept a lower child support payment but it does not go through the court system, it is possible that he or she could later sue you for not following the original court order.
Gather Financial Records and Documentation
In order to have your child support agreement modified, you will need to show documentation proving that what you are claiming is true. You’ll likely need bank account statements, pay stubs, copies of medical bills, and so on. Gather up what you need so you can accurately represent your income and your expenses.
Ask your ex-spouse to do the same thing so that the paperwork will be ready when it’s needed. It will be helpful if the two of you can sit down with your documents for the next step, but even if your ex is unwilling to do so, getting all of the paperwork together can help the process progress more smoothly.
Look at Your State’s Child Support Laws
If your state has a formula that child support is based on, it will be helpful for you to know about it and to plug in your numbers so you can see what, if any, changes are likely to be approved. If it turns out that your state will be unlikely to allow the changes you need, you might decide to look at other ways to change your budget to be able to accommodate paying the child support you have been ordered to pay. If, on the other hand, your state’s laws do support a change, you can move forward with confidence.
Submit the Documents Needed
Work with your legal advocacy group to submit the documents needed to the court. They will know what needs to be submitted in terms of specific paperwork and court forms that apply to your city, county, or state. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you fill out the forms and gather any documents that you didn’t already have handy. If you used them for your divorce and initial child support case, they might even have some of the paperwork needed already on file.
It is important to remember that child support payments go toward the things that your child needs and wants, so paying as ordered will help your child’s other parent provide things like health care, food, enough living space, educational supplies, extracurricular activities, and clothing. This is why the courts are sometimes hesitant to change the amount of child support the custodial parent receives. With that being said, there are some cases where a renegotiation is necessary. National Family Solutions can help if you are in this situation. Contact us today to find out how we can help you!