When Can I Get My Child Support Payments Changed?
Child support is ordered by a court in order to provide for the comfort, care, and financial support of minor children. It is a statutory calculation, based on the relative income and means of the parties, along with a number of other relevant factors. A court will generally only entertain petitions to modify child support on a regularly scheduled periodic basis. In most cases, this will happen every two years, but it can vary widely depending on the circumstances. However, there are times when the parties may want to revisit the issue before the next regularly scheduled interval.
A Maryland child support lawyer can help you decide if you have a good shot at changing child support obligations. Here is what you should know about petitioning for a modification in child support.
Awards are Not Retroactive
Even if you feel that the court made a mistake, you will not generally get a retroactive reduction in your support order. Under Section 12-104 of the Family Code, Maryland law makes it clear that a court cannot actually make retroactive awards and modifications prior to the date of a party filing a motion for modification.
Circumstances do not stay the same forever. People lose jobs, get promotions, remarry, file for bankruptcy, and so forth. Life happens. So, the court will generally allow for the parties to revisit the issue of child support on a regularly scheduled periodic timeframe, so as to allow for the increase or decrease in support, as needs be.
Material Change in Circumstances
If you wish to get the court to review or alter your child support obligation before the next regularly scheduled review, you will need to prove that there has been a ‘material change in circumstances.’ This term has a specific legal meaning. In order to qualify, the event must:
- Be relevant to your ability to pay the child support that is currently ordered
- Be a big enough change that it would justify a court changing your obligation
While these may seem like fairly flexible and ambiguous factors (and perhaps they are), courts are fairly predictable in allowing people to petition for modification. For instance, courts will generally entertain the following requests:
- Change due to involuntary loss of employment (downsized, etc.)
- Change due to severe disability, injury, and so forth
- Custodial parent’s relocation out of state
- Custodial parent’s alcohol or drug abuse, addictions, gambling, etc.
- Evidence of serious misuse of child support funds
- Custodial parent’s repeated and serious violations of custody or visitation arrangement
- Major changes in parent’s health
Never Modify Child Support on Your Own
Sadly, many self-represented individuals make the mistake of thinking that a significant change in circumstances automatically entitles them to a change in support obligations. Never make the mistake of reducing payments unilaterally or without court approval. This constitutes a violation of the court order, and it can subject you to contempt of court. Worse yet, it will make honest and good-faith efforts to modify child support much harder. Instead, call an experienced attorney first.
People often save thousands of dollars by having an attorney carefully review their options and handle their modification. If you are facing a major life change, then contact the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. to schedule a consultation to review your child support order and your change of circumstances.