Child support is the financial payment made by a noncustodial parent (the parent who does not live with the child) as a contribution to costs of raising his or her child. Depending on the state, an award of child support can be entered into voluntarily, by court order, or by an administrative agency. If the court or administrative agency determines the amount of the award, it is calculated based on a formula written into state law that takes into consideration both parents’ incomes, the needs of the child, and other factors regarding family structure.
The law recognizes that finances do not always stay the same when parents split up, so if a custodial parent finds that the child support he or she is receiving is not enough to meet the child’s needs, the custodial parent can petition for an increase in child support.
Here are some helpful tips if you are a custodial parent who needs to obtain an increase in child support.
- identify if there has been a significant increase in the noncustodial parent’s income or financial situation
- identify if there has been a significant decrease in your income or financial situation
- identify whether there have been increases in your child’s support needs
- gather documents and evidence that support the need for increased child support
- contact an experienced family law attorney
Do identify if there has been a significant increase in the noncustodial parent’s income or financial situation
In order to successfully petition for an increase in child support, you must show why it would be appropriate for the court to order the increase in support. There are several reasons that can support a request for an increase in child custody payments, including showing that the noncustodial parent’s income has significantly increased (usually by 10 percent or more from when the current support payment calculation was made). Sources of income can include gifts and inheritances, employment bonuses, life insurance proceeds, government benefits, workers’ compensation awards, legal settlements or judgments, lottery winnings, investment income, and sale of real estate or personal property.
Sometimes a custodial parent’s income can decrease or financial situation can change due to the economy or other factors. A custodial parent may seek an increase in child support if she or he is unable to meet the child’s support needs based on the current support order. Some changes that can cause a custodial parent’s income to decrease include losing a job, getting fewer hours at work, going on unemployment following a job loss, as well as getting injured or going on disability.
Expenses for caring for your child may have increased if your child moves or if your child’s health changes dramatically. An increase in a child’s support needs can be justified by showing that the child has had increased medical expenses, educational expenses, or age-related expenses. A child support award can also be increased to reflect general cost of living increases since the time the original order was entered.
At the court hearing on the child support modification, the parent seeking the modification will be asked to present evidence supporting an increased award of support. This evidence may include the most current year’s tax returns, recent pay stubs, medical bills or other bills related to supporting the child, or other proof depending on the reason the modification is being sought.
Determining the correct amount of child support is more complicated than simply filling out a questionnaire. Sometimes specialists are needed to calculate child support, such as where a noncustodial parent owns a business or has multiple sources of income, or where noncustodial parent income has not been properly disclosed. An experienced attorney has the resources and experts (such as forensic accountants or business specialists) needed to identify and quantify all sources of noncustodial parent income.
Child support modifications need to be supported by a change in circumstances. However, the court will not look favorably on situations where a custodial parent’s intentional actions create the need for the support increase. This includes avoiding situations such as where a custodial parent intentionally quits his or her job or takes a voluntary pay cut to force the noncustodial parent to pay more support.
Do not wait to seek a modification of the child support award if there has been a material change in circumstances
If there is a valid underlying reason which calls for re-examination of the child support order, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney for help in moving forward with your request to increase support. Children have a right to appropriate levels of financial support from their parents and custodial parents are often the first to recognize that an increase in support is needed.
It is important for your child’s financial protection as well as your own that you do not make any informal agreements to modify the level of child support. Any non-binding oral agreements or side deals may not be recognized by a court during any future disputes and may only create additional problems down the road.
An experienced attorney can make sure that you are aware of your legal options and to help you investigate all avenues of potential financial income that should be considered when determining a non-custodial parent’s child support obligations.
A proper level of child support is very important for your child’s future. If you are seeking an increase in a child support award, you will need to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrant the increase. This can include an increase in the child’s living or medical costs, or a substantial change in you or the noncustodial spouse’s financial situation. An experienced attorney also will allow you to feel more confident and secure that your child will receive the amount of child support he or she deserves.
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