Towson Child Support Lawyers
Modifications to Child Support
Once a court decision has been reached, it is likely that those involved in the case will be reluctant to go back and change what has already been decided. This is due in part to the costs, but also the emotional impact it can have. However, knowing the ins and outs of modifications to agreements, such as child support, can make an easier transition to a new agreement that could better work for all parties involved.
If one or both parents are interested in modifying a child support agreement, one of the parents must formally request the change by a formal motion to the court. While the child support order is in effect, either parent can request the court to change the order.
Child Support “Cliff”
Circumstances that May Change Child Support
In order for the court to grant a modification, you must provide evidence that your circumstances have materially changed since the time of the last child support order. For example, if one parent’s income has increased or decreased significantly, this typically may warrant a modification of a support order. What is required is a substantial change in circumstances. It is ground for modification that there has been a substantial change in the financial condition of either one of the parents since the initial award.
Here are several specific examples of circumstances that may lead to a support modification:
- A child becomes sick or disabled and the medical bills require increased financial obligations.
- As children grow older, there are more expenses for things like clothes, food, activities, athletics, music lessons, tutoring, etc.
- If a parent inherits a large sum of money or gets a significant raise the support agreement may be modified so that parent receives less money, or conversely be asked to pay more money to the former spouse if necessary.
- If a parent becomes unemployed, develops a serious illness or is sentenced to prison.
How Often Child Support Can be Changed
The courts will not change a child support order every time one or both parents feel like changing it. However, at any time, a parent can file a motion to modify an existing child support order, which should be filed in the same court that issued the support order. When requesting a child support order change, make sure that you have all documents necessary to provide proof of a “material change in circumstances.” The advice of an experienced child support lawyer can be beneficial during this time.
Voluntary impoverishment is when a parent deliberately puts him or herself in a situation whereby they have inadequate financial resources to avoid paying child support. A parent is voluntarily impoverished when the parent made the voluntary, free and conscious choice to be without sufficient resources. The court reviews many factors in making this determination, such as work history, efforts to obtain employment, past history of paying support, etc. If the court determines there was voluntary impoverishment, the court can “impute income,” meaning it can determine the child support payment as if the parent has an appropriate income.
Parents that are Imprisoned
If a parent has been sentenced to prison on or after October 1, 2012, it is likely that they will not have to pay child support. In addition, any unpaid payments will not accumulate while the parent is in prison, including 60 days after their release. This applies to a parent who has the support obligation and who has been sentenced to 18 consecutive months or more, a person who is not on work release and is unable to make payments while in prison and did not become voluntarily impoverished.
Verbal vs. Written Changes
Regardless of how friendly your separation or divorce may be, it is always in your best interest to file a motion for modification so that there is no question as to what you and your former spouse are obligated to. Having a written, legal document to refer to will only help avoid future confusion and resentment when it comes time to pay the required monthly support. Also, the child support order remains in effect until changed by a subsequent order; so even if a payor loses his job, and is unable to pay child support; or if there is an agreement to pay a lower amount, he should file a modification motion to be freed of the obligation to pay child support or to limit his exposure. Too often, parents just stop paying because they are not able without filing a motion; which leads to the accumulation of child support arrearages and the possibility of a contempt hearing.
Towson Child Support Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles Help Clients with Child Support Modifications
If you or your former spouse experience a change in circumstances that require a modification to child support payments, contact our Towson child support lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. We will walk you through the process of filing a motion with as little conflict as possible. We serve clients throughout Maryland, including Baltimore County, Harford County and Howard County, as well as residents of Towson, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster and Essex. Call us today at 443-589-0150 or contact us online.