Guest post by Carlos Martinez, Legal Solutions of New Mexico
Child support orders are based on your circumstances at the time the order is issued. As we all know, circumstances can change, and many people might want – or need – to reduce the amount of child support they are paying. While this is possible in some situations, you need to get the court’s permission. You should not simply start paying less without a modified order. The following are ten things to consider when reducing child support.
Understand How Your State Calculates Child Support
It is important to understand your state laws and the formula used by state courts to determine child support. There are often child support calculators available online that can give you insight into the factors that go into a child support calculation. You can use the calculator to estimate whether a reduction is appropriate in your situation.
Have Your Financial Circumstances Changed?
Most states require you to show that you have experienced a substantial change in financial circumstances that warrants a reduction. You will need to have documentation to show that your situation has changed significantly enough. Some changed circumstances that might qualify include long-term unemployment, disability, having additional children to support, and more.
Have The Other Parent’s Financial Resources Increased?
If your child’s other parent has experienced an increase in income or other financial resources, it may reduce your share of financial support for your children. This is an important factor to consider.
Can You Show The Change Is Not Temporary or Voluntary?
If you voluntarily stop working when you are employable, this will likely not qualify as a change in circumstances for support modification purposes. In fact, many courts will impute the income you possibly could be earning to determine your support obligations. In addition, if your change in circumstances is only temporary, the court will likely not modify your permanent order as a result. You should be able to demonstrate that the changes were beyond your control and will likely be lasting.
Have You Been Providing Extra Support?
Many parents who pay child support also pay for many types of “extras” in their child’s life. If you are paying for extra expenses above and beyond your child support obligations on a regular basis, the court may consider this when deciding whether to reduce your child support payments.
Does The Other Parent Object To Modifying Child Support?
While many child support modification cases go before the family court, this is not always the case. In some situations, your child’s other parent may admit that they do not need as much support as you have been paying. They may recognize that you cannot afford to make the payments as originally ordered.
If you approach the other parent and they agree to modify the child support order, you can file a joint petition with the court. Then, the only issue will be the new amount of support ordered. This non-contentious type of case can save you both time, money, and stress, so it is always worth it to see if the other parent agrees to a modification. If the parent objects to reducing child support payments, you will need to file a petition for a modification on your own. The other parent will then have the opportunity to fight that, which can be contentious and costly.
Can You Obtain Greater Custody Rights?
Courts will consider many factors when determining child support payments, including whether one parent is the primary custodial parent. If the other parent has the majority of time with your child, you will likely have to pay more support than if you had equal physical custody time or more. Sometimes, you can seek greater physical custody rights. This will factor into whether you deserve a reduction in your child support payments.
Are There Grounds To Fully Terminate Child Support?
Some parents may qualify to have their child support payments terminated altogether. There are limited circumstances that may warrant this decision by the court, such as:
- You have zero income at all. The complete loss of income might be due to disability or other circumstances that render you unemployable. The court may terminate your payments or may suspend them until you begin receiving disability benefits or other financial support.
- You are sentenced to a period of incarceration. Some state laws allow for the suspension of a child support order while you serve your sentence, though not every state allows this to happen.
- Your child is emancipated or reaches the age of majority. If your child turns 18 (or 21 in some states) or becomes legally emancipated from both parents, the court can terminate the support order.
- Your child passes away.
It is important never to assume your support will be terminated and simply stop paying without the court’s permission. This can result in serious consequences, possibly including criminal charges in some jurisdictions.
Have You Talked With A Lawyer?
If you are struggling to pay your child support and believe you need a reduction, you should discuss the matter with a licensed attorney in your area. The lawyer can review your situation and advise you whether you might qualify for a child support modification. If you take action on your own without the advice of a lawyer, you might waste a lot of time and money if you fail to fully understand the law and the grounds for a reduction.
Are You Following Court Procedures?
When you need a child support reduction, always follow the procedures required by your state court. If you don’t, you could get into trouble with the court, which can only cause greater issues in the long run. The best way to get the results you want is to take the time to follow the proper procedures and get a new child support order for a lesser amount whenever possible.
Carlos Martinez is a native New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque. He and his wife both graduated from the Albuquerque Academy. He earned degrees in Accounting and Finance from the University of Denver and graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was admitted to the New Mexico State Bar in 2010. Currently, Carlos focuses on divorce law at Legal Solutions of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. Follow them on Twitter @LegalSolutionNM and on Facebook as LegalSolutionsofNM
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