When parents get divorced, they must abide by the terms of the child support agreement, where one party – the so-called noncustodial parent – must pay support to the custodial parent.
However, circumstances change, and over time, many valid reasons can lead either parent back to family court to ask for a modification over child support. These can be for a one-time need or a long-term situation. During the current pandemic, many parents’ financial circumstances have changed.
Reasons to ask for a modification
In Missouri, as in most states, establishing child support is part of the divorce process. Children are entitled to receive the same amount of support they would have gotten if their parents had stayed together. For a child support order to be modified, parents will need to prove their situation has changed. The factors considered include:
- Decreased income: Parents who lose their jobs or take a significant hit in earnings and are unable to meet their support obligations can ask for a reduction. Custodial parents may also ask for increased payments when their income drops substantially.
- Increased responsibilities: A custodial parent may ask for an increase in support when costs associated with raising the child go up. Examples may be a child needing braces, tuition expenses or costs relating to extra-curricular activities.
- Family responsibilities: A noncustodial parent who remarries and has more children or adds stepchildren may request a decrease in child support when their income is stretched to sustain a larger extended family.
- Inheritance or increased income: Either parent may request additional or decreased support when learning that their ex-spouse was the beneficiary of a large sum of money or received a substantial pay raise.
Temporary vs. permanent modifications
Depending upon the reason for the modification request, the court may grant increases (or decreases) in child support payments temporarily or permanently. For instance, a temporary increase may be ordered for a one-time payment for a child’s braces.
A permanent modification is typically based on a significant change over the child’s situation. When a child has special needs, the costs are likely permanent, and courts, as when deciding custody, always put the child’s best interests first.
Modifications have long-term impacts
Regardless of which side of a child support order you are on, an experienced family law attorney can help you achieve the fairest outcome possible. Disputes over support can be financially and emotionally taxing on families.
A knowledgeable lawyer helps you receive a child support order that provides the balance needed to ensure the necessary care for your child. When your life changes, you need a support order that reflects your current circumstances.