Upon divorce settlement, both parties arrange custody and child support agreements to ensure the minor children of the divorced couple can maintain the same standard of living. The primary custodian of the children often receives child support payments from the other parent to cover costs related to taking care of the children. Child support could cover shelter, utilities, food and other basic needs. When financial situations change after the divorce, the primary custodian can request an upward child support modification.
Why Are Upward Modifications Requested?
There are many reasons why a parent may request an upward modification. No matter what the reason, a “substantial change of circumstances” must take place to make the modification valid. Income is the primary factor upon which the courts base child support amounts, so any significant change in income is a substantial change of circumstances that gives reason for an upward modification of child support. In some instances, the child may develop a serious medical condition that comes with lofty medical bills. The primary custodian would then request an upward modification to help cover the medical costs.
What Do You Need to Request an Upward Modification?
The courts require some specific information for an upward modification of child support. The income and expenses of the supporting parent are necessary to calculate a reasonable amount. Courts will need child care and medical expenses for the child or children to determine any additional costs outside the normal necessities. If applicable, include information regarding retirement, disability and jail or prison status as well. A family law lawyer can assist you with gathering the necessary documents and facilitating the modification process.
How Can You Monitor Your Ex’s Income?
Some parents do not want their ex-spouse to know about their current income because they are not willing to readily pay more for child support. In this case, courts can take some measures to prevent withholding of wage information and obtain proof of income. During the divorce proceedings, you can request to add a condition to the divorce decree requiring a proof of income report is every year to help you keep an eye on the fluctuations in your ex’s income.
If you did not include such a statement in your decree, or if your ex has not followed through with the income reporting, you can subpoena his or her wages. This gives you information straight from the employer with no fabrication. You can then use the information to modify the child support appropriately.
Start the Petition Process As Soon As Possible
If you are on good terms with your ex, it might be possible to agree upon a new child support amount without the need for a costly, lengthy trial. If this is the case, you should still have your agreement issued as a binding court order and with an attorney by your side. This allows for legal enforcement of the agreement in the event one of the parents does not follow through.
If you cannot form an agreement on your own, file a formal written petition in the court system where the original determination of child support occurred. Gather all the necessary documents listed above to submit with the petition, and give them to your attorney. He or she will send a copy to your ex using mail or a third-party service. Once this is complete, your lawyer will request a hearing date to have a judge authenticate the modification. If a judge approves the modification, it will be in effect immediately, but it cannot be retroactively applied to past payments. For this reason, you should start the modification process as soon as you notice a situational change.
If you are a custodial parent and believe you have a case for upward modification due to a substantial change in circumstances, talk with an attorney who understands family law.