Can I reduce child support if I’m going back to school?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

I am going back to school full time and will be taking out loans to finance my education. My argument is that attending this school will enable me to earn a higher salary later on and so it is beneficial in the long run. I was wondering if I can modify my child support during my period of enrollment?

Answer:

Modifying child support, in most jurisdictions, requires a material change in the circumstances upon which the ordered payments were predicated.  I do not practice in Ohio, so I can only speak in generalities based on my experience.

It is very difficult, if not impossible to modify an order based on what you plan to do instead of what has actually happened without the other party’s agreement.  For example, if your current employer gave you notice that your salary or benefits were changing substantially, you would then have grounds to seek a modification.  This type of modification is very common – either the payer files a motion because of a reduction in pay or the recipient files a motion because of an increase in pay.

The biggest hurdle for you is that your actions are voluntary, and despite your best intentions to be able to provide more in the long run, the other parent has an argument that you are “shirking” your responsibility.  A court uses the term shirking if it finds that a party’s employment decision to reduce or forgo income is voluntary and unreasonable under the circumstances.  The general rule is that a parent remains obligated to make reasonable choices that will not deprive his or her children of the support to which they are entitled.  You made the choice to return to school and decrease your earnings, even though you are aware of your current child support obligation.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

The basis for a modification is stronger if the basis relates to a reason outside of your control.  The court will likely focus on whether your decision to return to school is reasonable, and that likely hinges on how much you are making now, whether you will be able to continue to work while in school either part or full time, and how old the child is.  If your child is still young and you can complete the program in a relatively short period of time, then there are many years where the child can benefit.  If you are completing the program as your support obligation is ending, it is unlikely to be a reasonable decision.

The likelihood of modifying the order depends on the specific order, the facts of your case, and the laws in your jurisdiction.  I do not practice in Ohio, so I cannot inform you as to the state’s specific laws.  I encourage you to speak with a domestic litigation attorney before proceeding with your plans.

Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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2 comments on “Can I reduce child support if I’m going back to school?

    They force you to work or put you in jail. I think these women should be forced to get jobs or take their drivers license away and put them in jail where they belong.

    if I get remarried but pay most of my income to child support and insurance coverage on 3 children from a previous marriage and I now have 2 step children and my new wife would like to give me a child that I get to raise without interruption but in order to get my previous divorce terminated I hired a lawyer who was co inhabiting with my ex wife’s attorney and I felt forced into a settlement that is harshly unfair and my ex wife doesn’t co parent well at all but she has joint legal and physical custody of my 3 boys and I get every other weekend and every other holiday and after summer school every other week until school starts back up with max amount in child support and she also claims all 3 boys on her taxes which technically she makes no income so has someone else claim them to reap the benefit of the huge tax refund every year. I’m left with less than 800.00 a month to provide for myself and new family so I told my new wife there’s no chance of me affording daycare for our new baby and my responsibility will lack in lots of ways due to the 20 hours of overtime I work weekly and the amount I bring home is not enough. I’m already at a good start at letting my new wife down and she is my everything ( that once in a lifetime love I will never get again if I lose her) I want to be a responsible dad to all of my family and provide for both but in order to do so I need to make a change and go to college because I only have a high school diploma that doesn’t get me into anything close to a career worth having that pays over 12 an hour. so my plan is sturdy but my ex wife is all about money because she refuses to make her own and that exactly why our marriage didn’t work in the beginning, she take advantage of other peoples hard work and when the money runs out she’s gone. I just to equal out our time with our children because I wont be able to work while in school and if I do its not enough to pay her the amount I have to pay now. I’m terrified and don’t know where to turn, I’m still paying lawyer fees and wont start this change until sometime next year because the savings is so hard to do. I cant live like this, its just not enough and I feel like I’m a loser but on the bright side I’m owning up to my responsibilities but would like it so much better to actually get to enjoy being the father instead of an ATM. I will have so much proof ready for the next time I go up against a money driven women, my boys love me and my new wife and her sons and its hard for all of us to not get them as often as we want to. my wife spoils them and she love doing it but we are always cursed for it but what do you expect when we see them 4 days a month. its just not enough to repair the year of lost time because she alienated them from me during our divorce and nobody did a thing to stop that from happening, my lawyer believed hers and claimed I was just a bad dad for not stealing them from her but she hid them and I went about it in the legal way and still was severely punished which is not how it should be. I want to share my boys with their mother but on even grounds plus she has two other children she had before our divorce and I think her hands are plenty full. I just want to squash what our past was and move on with my life along with my children, make my wife happy and my step children happy. I’m the good guy here. I need an opinion without a sales pitch. if I don’t have a chance in hell I want to know, if I can do something besides wonder I want to know. its exhausting researching information that might and might not be truth. I need an attorney that has a background fighting for fathers in my situation. I want to research attorneys that can give me results even if they are small, something is better than nothing. I have a plan to serve my ex with mediation and see if she is willing to work this out but I can guarantee its a no. I will do it twice and if not I will seek for a modification of custody and hire my lawyer.

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