Modifying Child Support
Even the most conscientious parents sometimes struggle to pay child support. Life rarely stands still, and you might be surprised to find yourself unemployed or sick. Can you halt or reduce your child support payments, at least temporarily?
The short answer is, “Yes,” but you must be careful to follow the rules. Parents who stop paying child support can have their wages garnished or face other consequences, so it is best to consult with an attorney about how to follow the proper legal process.
Reasons to Modify Child Support
Child support has several purposes. For example, the state of North Carolina does not want your child to become a financial burden on the state. Also, your child should be able to partake in your lifestyle even if he or she does not live with you. For these reasons, North Carolina will not easily let you reduce or stop making child support payments.
If your case is with the state’s Child Support Enforcement office, you can request a review every 36 months by contacting the agency. However, a cash crunch usually strikes suddenly, and you might want an immediate review because of a substantial change of circumstances. Our clients have successfully sought modification in a variety of situations, such as the following:
- Job loss
- Reduction of work hours
- Change in custody
Of course, the custodial parent can also seek modification to increase child support if there has been a substantial change of circumstance. For example, a judge might increase child support for the following reasons:
- Your child’s needs have changed. For example, he or she might have become ill or disabled and require more medical care.
- The custodial parent starts receiving public assistance. The state might want child support increased so that the child is not a financial burden on the state.
The key to successfully modifying child support is to back up your claim that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Certainly, you can go into court and tell the judge that there has been a change, but most judges want to see documented proof or other evidence. For example, you should collect the following:
- A termination notice if you have lost your job
- Pay stubs if your income has declined
- Medical bills or other expenses if your child needs more services
- Medical records if you have become ill
Find whatever evidence is at hand and consult with your attorney for help retrieving supporting documentation.
The Modification Process
If you are struggling to pay child support, you should not just stop. Instead, you should continue to make payments as long as possible until your request for modification is approved. To request modification as the custodial parent, you can contact your local child support agency if they are enforcing the child support order. Otherwise, it will be necessary to file a motion in court to ask the judge to modify child support. Because the court process is usually complicated, you should consult with a family law attorney.
Contact a Wilmington, North Carolina Family Law Attorney
If paying child support has suddenly become a burden, we can help. At Hodges Coxe Potter & Phillips, our family law attorneys can assess whether you have a good chance of seeking modification, and we can guide you through the process. Contact us today to get started.