You and your spouse are splitting up. You think the court will order you to pay child support for your 12-year-old son.
You’re fine with that, and you want to help out. However, you also work in a rather volatile industry. Things are going well right now, but you’re worried about what your finances will look like in a year, or in five years. If you’re ordered to pay $1,000 per month, for example, is that going to turn problematic in the future?
It’s wise to think ahead and plan for all possible outcomes. Below are four crucial questions to ask.
1. Is it even possible to change the order?
It is, but it’s often hard. You need to show that there’s been a significant change. You have to go to court to show why you require the modification and to have it approved. This is time-consuming. In many cases, proposed modifications are not accepted.
2. Can you and your spouse change it alone?
No. You must get that court order. Just calling your ex and asking for a modification isn’t enough. Remember, this is true even if he or she agrees with you and thinks it should change. If you start paying $500 per month, for instance, you’re still legally in violation of the order without a modification. The court could eventually order you to pay all of the back pay from the other $500 each month.
3. Does a change have to be permanent?
It does not. You can seek a permanent change if you’d like — if you took a new job with half of your old salary, for example — but you can also ask for a temporary change. For instance, perhaps you lost your job and you anticipate getting a new one in the next few months. You may be able to pay less while you’re between jobs and then increase it again when you find new employment and it becomes affordable.
4. What are reasons for a change other than unemployment?
Other reasons vary from case to case, but they could include things like one parent remarrying or the child’s needs changing. Disabilities to parents may also require consideration, as they can be costly and may result in an inability to work and substantial income loss. Second family issues — like getting remarried and having two more kids — may also play into it in some cases. These are just a few examples, as every case is different.
Again, it’s important to note that modifications to court orders are not guaranteed. Once the court has made a decision, many couples are stuck with it. When they think modifications appear warranted, it’s critical for parents to know their legal options.