The court orders you to pay child support when your marriage ends. They base it on your income and the child’s needs. For the first few years, you make every single payment.
Then your financial situation changes. Maybe you start a new family and have additional expenses. Maybe you lose your job and see significant income changes. Whatever happens, it’s clear that you cannot make the payments that the court ordered back when your marriage first ended. Now what?
You can request a modification
First off, please know that you can request a modification. You are not necessarily stuck with those payments forever — or, at least, until your kids are no longer minors. You can ask the court to review your obligations again in light of the new circumstances, and they may change what you need to pay.
Don’t stop paying or make your own modifications
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t take this into your own hands. Do not simply “modify” how much you choose to pay on your own. Do not skip payments that you think are now unfair and unjust. You still have a legal obligation to pay what the court ordered, and you should put forth maximum effort to do so. If you cannot pay the required amount, pay as much as you can.
Remember, the child support order does not change when your situation changes. You must wait for the court to make the change official. This can get difficult when you have a sudden job loss and can’t get the modification immediately, but that’s how the system works.
Talk to your ex
It helps your position if your ex decides not to fight your request and agrees to the modification. It’s a conversation you definitely want to have. Explain your situation, tell them that you still want to help provide for the child but it’s financially difficult to do so, and see if they will sign off on your request. It’s not impossible to get a modification that your ex doesn’t agree with, but it may be harder if they fight you in court.
A lot of this probably comes down to your current relationship. If you are still angry or at odds over the divorce, it’s harder. If you are working together to be the best co-parents you can, putting the kids first even when your marriage has ended, that makes it go more smoothly.
The legal process
As you can see, it’s important to know what rights you have and what steps you need to take. You must follow the proper legal process to get the modification, and you do not want to overlook anything.