Child support modification occurs when the amount of child support paid by one parent to another, that had been previously stipulated by a court order, is either lowered or raised. A modification is required when circumstances involving the parent paying the child support undergo unanticipated changes that significantly affect the amount of support he or she can pay. Circumstances which change the amount of payment may include an improved financial situation or the loss of a job. An official modification is achieved by filing an affidavit and a petition to modify child support to a domestic relations court. Involving the court is often wise because informal agreements between parents can become troublesome if the two parents disagree on the terms at any point.
Parents are responsible for providing for their children, even if there is a divorce or separation. If two parents are separated and ask a court of law to intervene, the court will use predetermined factors including income and the child's living arrangements to determine which parent will pay support and how much will be paid. When those factors undergo an unanticipated change that raises or lowers the amount the supporting parent is able to pay by at least 10 percent of the previously determined amount, child support modification may be necessary. Parents can agree upon the modification and bring it to the court to make it official, or have the court determine the modification, if any is warranted, if an agreement can't be reached.
Changes that might raise the amount being paid include the supporting parent either getting a higher-paying job or a promotion from his or her current position, or that parent coming into a sudden financial windfall from an inheritance or other unexpected circumstance. The amount could be lowered if a parent unexpectedly loses a job either temporarily or permanently. Child support modification might also be necessary if the child switches living arrangements and moves from one parent's home to the other. A change in the financial circumstances of the parent receiving support can also cause modification.
To officially get the original court order of a change in child support, one parent must file a petition to modify child support. An affidavit must also be filed which explains the circumstances that necessitate the child support modification. This document must also include all pertinent financial information. If the parents agree upon the modification, they can complete a child support order together and file that with the court along with the affidavits. The child support modification usually becomes effective from the date that the original petition was filed.
Some parents may wish to try to modify a child support agreement without the help of the court. Such informal agreements can be problematic if the two sides have a subsequent disagreement about the payments. If they then go to court to decide the amount, a parent who had been paying less via the informal arrangement can be asked to give back payments to make up the difference between the informal and official arrangements, because the court usually abides by the official written order.