Adjusting Child Support Payments
Divorce can many times be a contentious and draining experience—both financially and emotionally. It can be especially hard and painful when trying to determine child custody. After the dust settles and a divorce is finalized, both parents can go through several changes as time goes by: remarriage, new job, moving, etc. Children also grow up and leave to start their own lives as adults.
These life changes can dramatically affect the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay child support, for better and for worse. A new job could mean he or she has an increase in income. Developing a disability could mean a significant decrease in income.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the law acknowledges and recognizes these changes and fluctuations. But there could be a great reluctance to relive the divorce experience. It’s important for you to know that it doesn’t have to be nearly as fraught with acrimony or strife. If one or both parents feel that the current child support agreement needs to be changed, then a review may be requested with a form from the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Typically, a child support review may occur after at least three years since it was created. But just the passing of time is not enough for a review request. You’ll need to provide a reason. Additionally, there are some exceptions to this rule. The special circumstances include the following:
- A new child or children need to be added to the child support order because of a birth or a change in custody
- A child loses eligibility of support at the current level
- A parent’s income has shown a significant increase or decrease in income (by at least 25 percent)
- A parent is in the National Guard or in the military reserves and has been called to active duty, resulting in an income change.
But before you and the other parent begin this process of requesting a child support review, you should pursue the following steps:
- Consult with your attorney. Although this process may seem straightforward, it’s important to consult with a lawyer to examine all the legal issues and wrinkles you may not even be aware of. So before you formally or informally start the negotiations, secure an attorney.
- Look over the previous child support order. Along with your lawyer, carefully look at the previous order in your custody case. It does not matter if the order was mutually agreed upon or not. What you and your attorney will be looking for is language which can set the parameters of how to calculate a new amount of child support.
- Exchange financial information with the other parent. So that both parents can make an informed decision about child support, it’s usually a good idea to exchange your current financial information. Although this will usually happen during the discovery process, it’s better to do this prior so you can save both time and money.
- Work together towards a mutually agreed upon child support amount. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a set of guidelines to calculate child support, although sometimes the courts will allow some deviation—but not often. So it’s imperative that you work together with the counsel of the other parent to come to a mutually satisfying child support amount.
- Get this agreement in writing through a new court order. When it comes to a child support modification, a verbal agreement is a good place to start, but it has no legal weight or bearing. A new court order is the only way that you can legally change a court-ordered child support amount. If this isn’t done through the courts, then the courts will only look at the previous court order. So if you agree to a lower amount and the courts only have record of the higher amount, the non-custodial parent who is responsible for paying may be brought back to court later to pay the remaining amount—even if the custodial parent has agreed to the new, lower amount.
If you are seeking a child support modification in Virginia, contact the knowledgeable and effective Charlottesville family law attorneys at Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz at 434-977-7977.