Can You Modify Custody If You Have Child Support Arrears?

divorce lawyer Daniel ExnerQuestion:

Can I file for a modification of child custody if I am in arrears for child support?

My ex-wife has lost her job and her home, and now her and my daughter are living at a friend’s house.

I believe our child would have a more stable environment living with me, but I need to know my chances of gaining custody if I have these child support problems.


While I am not licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, I can provide you with some general divorce help for men regarding the issue in your question.

Courts will always consider the best interests of the child when they determine or revise custody and placement orders. While the “best interests” of any child can depend on a multitude of considerations, courts will try to ensure the child is in a healthy and stable environment, especially during his or her formative years.

In many cases, the key to stability is preserving the child’s status quo. Courts are reluctant to dramatically change the child’s circumstances unless there is persuasive evidence of necessity.

I am not sure what your current placement schedule is but I am assuming from your question that your ex-wife has primary placement. You may be able to file a motion with the court to re-evaluate your current placement order. The court’s willingness to entertain the motion will depend on your state’s specific modification standards.

In addition, the likelihood of success will depend on your current relationship with your daughter. The court may be willing to overlook the support arrearages if you can provide a much healthier and stable environment for your daughter.

The court may consider your ex-wife’s recent setbacks if asked to re-evaluate placement but that fact alone may not carry the day.

Situations like this are highly fact intensive and you should be prepared to critically answer the following questions: Why is my daughter’s current situation unacceptable? And why would my suggested change in her current placement be in her best interests?

After you have the answers to these questions, I recommend speaking to a lawyer licensed in your state for legal advice for custody and placement modifications as soon as possible.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide. To schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney, including Daniel Exner, a Staff Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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One comment on “Can You Modify Custody If You Have Child Support Arrears?

    If I’m awarded custody of my daughter due to it being in her best interest; what happens to my arrears? Do I still pay it? Do they get reduced or waived? Do her mother now start paying child support?

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