When parents separate and children are involved, the financial well-being of those children often becomes a complicated legal issue. It can also be an emotional one, both for the parent paying child support and the parent who receives it.
This is especially true if and when circumstances change, and one parent wants to modify the amount of child support being paid. The following article will help you understand the process to seek a child support modification.
What Is Child Support?
In Arizona and elsewhere, child support is defined as “an amount of money that a parent must pay to another parent to contribute to the living, medical and educational expenses of a child”.
The Arizona Supreme Court developed a set of guidelines to calculate how much support the parents should pay every month to provide for their child(dren). The guidelines estimate how much the parents would spend on things like food, housing, and medical care if they were still together. Each parent contributes to his or her proportionate share of the total amount.
However, a lot can happen in the life of a child or a parent, and so the court has provided a way for a parent to change the amount of support he or she provides.
What Is a Child Support Modification?
As the name suggests, a child support modification is a change to the amount of money the parents pay. It can be either an increase or a decrease, depending on the situation. It can also be temporary or permanent.
A temporary modification might involve a one-time payment for a need the child has, like orthodontics. The court might order the parents to share the cost of that specific expense.
A permanent modification would replace the current amount with a different one, typically until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. A permanent modification would reflect a change in either the child’s or the parent’s situation.
A licensed attorney can help you determine which one is appropriate in your situation.
Who Can Request a Modification?
Either parent can request a change to the child support. It’s important to note that any request for modification must be approved by the court. It’s not something that happens automatically say, in the event one parent loses his or her job.
Failure to pay child support entirely, or failure to pay the court-ordered amount can result in severe penalties. Those penalties can include:
- Income Withholding
- Liens on a parent’s property
- Garnished tax refunds
- Garnished worker’s compensation benefits
- A driver’s license suspension
- Credit bureau reports
- Bench warrants for arrest
- Passport denial or revocation
How Can I Get a Child Support Modification?
Arizona law states that a parent may request a modification of their existing child support order when there has been a “significant and continuing change” to their living condition.
It’s a broad definition, so it’s important to understand how the court defines those two words. A licensed attorney can help you decide if your situation might meet that criterion.
You’ll need to show the court the change in your economic situation is a permanent (continuing) one. For example, if you experience an illness or injury that prevents you from earning as much as you used to.
A “substantial” change is one that could result in a 15 percent change in the child support amount. An example might be if you lose your high-paying job and aren’t likely to find another, or you receive a substantial and permanent increase in your income.
You can also request a child support modification every three years without having to demonstrate a significant and continuing change.
Questions? Contact Reppucci & Roeder Today!
If you have questions about your child support order or would like to request a modification, please contact the law office of Reppucci & Roeder at 480-300-6012 for a FREE consultation!
Be sure to ask about the special financing options available through our EasyRetainer® program.