When child support is set after a divorce, the court typically considers the incomes and financial situations of the parents at that time. In many instances, circumstances change as the children get older. For example, the children’s financial needs increase, the parents’ incomes change, the amount of time children spend with each parent changes, etc. When there is a change in any one of these situations, either parent can file for a child support modification. However, filing for a modification doesn’t necessarily mean the judge’s ruling will be in favor of the modification. The parent seeking child support modification must petition the court and prove that there has been a material and significant change of financial condition.
Often, the parents may agree that support needs to be changed, but all modification of child support must be approved by the court. Typically an informal agreement between the parents that is not approved by the court is not enforceable. If either person backs out of that agreement, he or she can petition the court to enforce the child support order that is on file with the court. For example, a Court Order may state that the father is to pay $1000 per month and both parents later agree to reduce it to $500 per month. If this agreement is not approved by the court, the mother could later file a contempt action against the father for not paying the full $1000 per month. So all child support agreement modifications should be in writing AND approved by the court.
Whether a joint agreement has been reached or you are looking to petition the court for a child support modification on your own, it is beneficial to recognize the appropriate circumstances under which it can take place.
- Loss of Employment
If either parent loses their job, the child support award may change to require less financial backing from the unemployed parent. In the case of the unemployed parent receiving support already, he or she may receive more. If the non-custodial parent loses a job, the child support award may decrease temporarily or permanently.
- Change in Income
Similarly, if the income of one or both of the parents changes, there may be a basis to modify the child support. This usually requires a significant change up or down.
- Change in Cost of Raising Child
If custody arrangements are being altered, your cost of raising a child might be increasing or decreasing. The cost of raising a child might change because of medical emergencies, diagnosed chronic illness, etc. Under this circumstance, the parent bearing the additional costs can file to receive more child support from the other parent.
If financial and life circumstances change to the point at which you can no longer pay child support or need more child support, don’t hesitate to petition the court. Failing to pay can result in a revoked license, jail time, fines, wage garnishment, and tax return interception. Inability to support your children can also have negative impacts on their quality of life.
To better understand the circumstances and risks of seeking child support modification in Georgia, contact Scott Spooner and Associates.
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