How to Modify a Child Support Order

An initial child support order is usually made on the basis of the income of both parents, the needs of the child and other relevant matters.  If you feel that an existing order has now become burdensome or inadequate you should consult an attorney because you may be able to have the existing order modified.

STEP 1 – Evaluate Whether Your Circumstances Support a Modification
In most states modifying a child support order requires proof of a change of circumstances in either of the parents’ employment or a change in the status of the children since the original order; such as the child may now need expensive medical care or may be enrolled in a special school.  The idea here is that the changed circumstances render the original order either inadequate or burdensome. 

STEP 2 - Document Your Supporting Evidence
If you were required to file an income statement when the original child support order was entered you will probably be required to do so again.  Gather documentation that supports the change in circumstances underlying your request for a modification.  For instance, document your decrease in wages or loss of a job, or the other parent’s increased wages, or the increased medical expenses you must pay for a child, etc. 

STEP 3 – Determine What Form Must be Filed
Some courts utilize standardized forms for modification of a child support order requests.  Contact your local court for more information.  For instance, sometimes the request is called a "petition" for modification or a "motion" for modification, etc.   Also, there may be supporting forms that must be used, such as an affidavit regarding your financial matters or a financial worksheet.  Finally, you may have to file several copies of your documents with the court - the clerk of the court will "stamp" the copies and give them back to you to serve to other parent. 

STEP 4 – File the Documents with the Appropriate Court
Some states have a general trial court for all civil actions while other states have a separate family court. 

STEP 5 – Serve a Copy of the Modification Petition on the Other Parent
It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to serve copies of the petition, supporting documents, summons and other required paperwork to the other parent.  You may be able to serve the other party through the mail or by having another person deliver a copy to the other parent in person.  Most states do not allow the plaintiff to personally serve the other party.  (Note:  In some states you may also be required to serve your state’s child support enforcement agency.) 

STEP 6 – Complete and Return a Proof of Service to the Court
After the other party has been served most states require that a “proof of service” be returned to the court.  A proof of service is a standardized form used in the courts wherein the person who completed the service attest that copies of the court documents were in fact sent to the other parent. 

Throughout the above steps you will undoubtedly consult with your attorney regarding the process, the chances the court will grant your request, and other matters related to your particular situation.  Child support orders are not indefinite.  A judge will modify an existing child support order based on the parents’ and the child’s then current circumstances.  The overriding interest that the judge looks at is the child’s best interests.  If you feel that your child’s best interests are not being met by the current support order you should contact an attorney to see about modifying the order.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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