FAQ: Divorce

Modification of Support Orders: Spousal Support - Child Support

Can my spousal or child support order be changed?

In some circumstances, spousal support (alimony) and/or child support orders may be changed. The court refers to changes in support as modifications of support orders. Generally, when a request for a change in support is made, the requesting party must show the court that there has been a substantial or material change in circumstances, subsequent to the current support order, to justify modifying the support order. While the factors the court considers for child support and spousal support vary, the court uses similar tests and considers similar factors when granting or denying modifications of spousal and child support orders.

What constitutes a "substantial change in circumstances" or "material change"?

A substantial change in circumstances can vary from state to state. A substantial change might include a permanent involuntary change in employment status, relocation as a result of a job transfer or change, significant financial change in the obligor or the recipient, change in co-habitation status, and change in marital status. As in most family law matters, modification of support orders is governed by state law. To ensure you have an accurate understanding of your state's laws, contact an experience divorce lawyer.

What does the court consider when modifying child support?

In cases involving modification of child support, the court focuses on changes in the parents' resources and child's needs. Situations that demonstrate a substantial or material change in circumstances include a change in ability to pay support, a change in the financial resources of the parent receiving child support, a change in the child's needs, and, in some cases, a change in marital status of the parent receiving support. While not considered a substantial or material change in circumstances, failure of a noncustodial parent to exercise his or her visitation rights may result in an increase in child support obligations.

What does the court consider when modifying spousal support?

While specific factors vary from state to state, the court considers two main factors when granting or denying a modification of spousal support. The two factors are an increase or reduction in a spouse's ability to pay support and a reduction or increase in the needs of the spouse receiving support.

Does custody and visitation affect child support?

Simply stated, yes. When physical custody is granted to one parent, generally, the noncustodial parent will be responsible for child support. How custody is divided can impact the amount of child support awarded. Additionally, failure of a noncustodial parent to exercise his or her visitation rights may result in an increase in child support obligations.

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