In these difficult economic times, we meet with clients on a daily basis who need to modify their child support obligations just to make ends meet. This is much more difficult to do than you might think. Judges frequently use the logic that if you’ve been paying it in the past, then you can continue to pay it in the future. Consequently, you need to be able to prove to a court that your income or circumstances have changed through no fault of your own and your child support should be reduced as a result.
Five Things to Know About Child Support Modification
Here are some important factors to bear in mind when you are trying to reduce your child support:
1. Are You Current on Your Child Support Obligation?: It is best to file a modification when you are in full compliance with your current court order. If you are in arrears on your support at the time you file your modification, then expect the person you are taking to court to file a counterclaim based on your failure to pay support as ordered. This isn’t uncommon, and sometimes it is unavoidable. However, you want the case to be about YOUR modification, not someone else’s contempt case against you.
2. Your Personal Expenses Rarely Matter, it is only for child-related expenses: The “numbers” that impact the child support equation are your income, the other parent’s income and child-related expenses like daycare, health insurance, and extracurricular activities. The fact that you owe back taxes or recently had expensive car repairs are of little consequence to the judge. Most courts believe you should pay your taxes, pay your child support and then your remaining money is your concern. While your personal expenses may not help you in your modification, you should bear in mind that your recent purchases or lifestyle can be used against you in court. It’s hard to argue to a judge that you can’t afford your child support if you just bought a brand new car or big-screen TV or you just got home from your trip to Jamaica. That kind of evidence will certainly damage your claim that you are experiencing financial difficulties.
3. Did You Lose Your Job or Did You Quit?: If you have been downsized or let go from your place of employment, then you may qualify for a reduction in your child support. However, if you quit your job to go back to school or to accept a less stressful job that pays less, then a judge is unlikely to be sympathetic to your situation. If you chose to be in your current financial predicament, then it’s hard to claim that you have suffered the kind of unforeseen material change in your financial circumstances needed to modify your child support.
4. Were You Terminated From Your Employment For Something That Was Your Fault?: My law partner represented an airline pilot who took his annual physical and failed it due to a heart murmur. In his world, a heart murmur means you’re not flying a commercial plane ever again. He went from a six-figure income to $ 50,000 in an unrelated profession on the ground. Modification granted. However, if he had failed his physical because he tested positive for cocaine, then a court would be highly unlikely to reduce his support obligation. The loss of job and loss of income would be seen as resulting solely from his poor choices. Why should the child suffer because a parent chose to use illegal drugs? The same is true if you were fired for sexual harassment, habitual absences, poor job performance or arguing with a supervisor. If you are basing your modification on the loss of a job, that job loss shouldn’t be your fault if you hope to be successful in court.
5. Support For One Child is Not Always Less Than Your Support For Multiple Children: I receive calls all the time from people who have a child achieve the age of 18 (or 19 in Alabama), and they are ready to file an action to reduce their child support based on the emancipation of this child. Modification may be appropriate, but it also may not be. If you were divorced 10 years ago, then you may be making more money now. It is possible that the child support for the remaining child would be equal to, or even more than, the child support for two or more children. Is the other parent employed or unemployed at the moment? That person’s income or lack of income can impact the calculations. Is the remaining child in daycare or participating in expensive extracurricular activities (like competitive cheerleading, travel baseball leagues, etc.)? If you have a child emancipate as a matter of law, then it would be wise to consult an attorney and explore your options. Just don’t let the situation backfire on you and have your child support increased because of an ill-advised modification case that YOU filed.
Child Support Services in Columbus, Georgia
Contact the child support service experts at Phillips and Sellers Attorneys at Law of Columbus, Georgia. Whether you need to update your child support obligations or want to learn more child support modification, we can help! Call our office or fill out our form today to find your child support attorney in Columbus, GA.