Child support is critical to providing the best possible life for your child. As most people are aware, it is intended to cover basic needs and ensure that, to the fullest extent possible, the child does not experience a significant change in the quality of life that he or she lead prior to the separation or divorce. Child support can be set through a negotiated agreement between the parents, as long as certain guidelines are met. However, there may be reasons, either during the initial determination, or after a child support order has been entered, that a parent needs to increase the amount of child support being received.
There are many reasons to increase child support. These five are common justifications for coming back into court and increasing a support payment are as follows:
1. Involuntary job loss – when a parent has lost a job through no fault of his or her own, and has at least part-time custody of their child, it may be necessary to have the other parent pay a higher amount of child support. If this has to be done through a request for modification, the court will consider the factors that led to the job loss. There may be some other temporary reason why one parent is unable to make his or her portion of the child support payments.
2. Change in a child’s needs – a support order is based, in large part, on the needs of the child in question. These needs may change over time. For instance, the child may be diagnosed with a disability that necessitates specialized education programs and other customized assistance that costs far more than was included in the initial calculation.
3. A medical emergency (i.e. extenuating circumstances)– this can be of either the parent or the child, but relates to any circumstance where there are unexpected and significant costs that drain the resources of the custodial parent and mandate an increase in child support payments in order to maintain the child’s quality of life.
4. A parent remarries and the spouse’s salary or other funds significantly increases household income – there is an element of parity that the courts try to maintain when a child is moving between two households, which means that it is not desirable for the child to have a much nicer lifestyle when staying with one parent than the other. Therefore, the court will increase child support payments in order to provide a similar environment in both households. This reasoning also applies if one parent has received a large sum of money from an inheritance or other financial source.
5. Child support laws change – although the basic framework of determining child support payments is not likely to undergo an extreme change, there are revisions to the law that may impact the amount of child support that someone should receive.
In light of the foregoing, it is important to understand that the basis for an increase in child support, should it be sought post-judgment, is that there must be a substantial change in circumstances exists (i.e., such as a 20% increase or decrease in income, etc.). The court will consider whether this change is long-term, or only requires a temporary increase in support payments. If possible, it is much less complicated if the parents can agree to modify the existing support without obligating the court to rule on the facts of the case.