Common sense dictates that if a father’s income decreases then his monthly child support should go down accordingly. Unfortunately, when and how to modify child support are questions that many dads find so confusing that they end up doing nothing at all and end up with payments they can’t afford.
Doing nothing can be an enormously costly mistake as arrears can quickly accumulate and before you know it you are caught in an unending cycle of debt. In extreme cases, unpaid child support can even result in jail time.
If you are confused about when and how to file a petition to modify child support, you should contact a family law attorney immediately. They will be able to walk you through each step of the process, and while this might cost you in the short-term, it is an investment that can save you a lot of money down the road.
It’s especially important to act quickly because courts typically cannot modify child support prior to the date the petition is filed. That means if you are laid off on Sept. 1 but file to modify Nov. 1, the court can modify the child support obligation as of November but can’t go back to September.
Many fathers are also concerned that they will be required to pay the original ordered support until the obligation is lowered, which might result in an overpayment if the child support is lowered as of the date of filing. However, if payments are lowered, the court can adjust to burn any accrued overpayments.
Some dads also fail to file a petition to modify child support because they only expect their income to be lower for a brief amount of time. For example, they might be completing one contract employment position and preparing to start another. If the period of time is a known quantity, you can simply do the math as to how much support you will owe. However, if the period is unknown, you can file to preserve the earliest possible date for modification.
Furthermore, you should consider filing a petition to modify child support if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You are fired or permanently laid off. Even if you expect to land a new gig soon, you should still file a petition to modify. The only exception would be if your new job is already lined up.
- You are temporarily laid off with no call back date. This could happen to union members between jobs. The layoff might be expected to be only temporary, but if there is no firm call back date then you need to act quickly to protect your right to the earliest filing date.
- You reach the end of a contract position. Even if you expect to land a new contract quickly, it is best to not assume.
- You are injured either at work or away from work or come down with an illness.
- You are activated for the military. Statutes exist addressing this situation as well as the process for modification. Make sure you notify all parties and the court as soon as possible.
The longer you delay filing a motion to modify the more money you can end up costing yourself. Keep in mind that you can always withdraw your motion, so there is no reason to wait around hoping your situation will go back to the way that it was.
When there is a significant change in circumstances, file the motion to modify as quickly as possible to ensure you have the earliest possible modification date.