Once the court has mandated a child support agreement, is it written in stone or can it be changed if the cost of living goes up or if circumstances change? Fortunately for parents, it is possible to change the court order in certain cases.
Cost of Living Adjustments
The clearest type of change is for cost of living. If you live in an area subject to high inflation, it may be hard both to live on child support agreements negotiated in the past and also to pay them. Ideally, your original agreement included a provision that child support would change based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) in your area. If not, you can petition to have a cost of living or COLA provision added that whenever the CPI in your area goes up by 10% from the current court order, you get a raise. Once you reopen the issue, you can get have a COLA clause added to your agreement, although no increase will kick in unless the CPI increases.
When you petition the court for a COLA, the judge is likely to grant it as long as the math supports you. COLAs have nothing to do with a change in your circumstance, even if you, as a former stay-at-home parent, just got a high paying job. The other party can object, but not based on ability to pay.
Change of Circumstances
When circumstances have changed due to loss of a job, a new job, disability, imprisonment or other inability to earn income, or escalating needs, one party to a child support agreement can petition the court for a revision of the amount of child support payments. Even if one parent remarries, the increase in income is fair game for the ex-spouse to request an increase in child support. In this case, both parties would need to provide financial information to the court.
Requests to change support amounts can be permanent or temporary. If a parent loses a job or has a personal medical emergency, of if the child has a medical emergency, the judge can grant a temporary change in support payments.
Work with the Court to Change Child Support Agreements
Support orders are meant to be long-standing, so courts do not take kindly to frivolous requests for changes. The proposed increase or decrease should be at least 10% for the court to consider it. When divorced parties put their finances before the court, they open themselves up for the court to reevaluate the amount paid and may find themselves paying or receiving more than they planned on.
Once a support agreement is in effect, any changes in the amount of the payment must go through the courts. Even if one parent informally agrees to more or less, the arrangement must still be added to the agreement.
If you find yourself needing a change in your child support agreement, due to change in circumstance or a change in the cost of living, your family law attorney at Burton Law can help you.