If you have children with your ex-spouse, it is likely that one of you is paying the other child support to help provide for the children after the break-up. Typically, child support is awarded to the party who has physical custody of the child. But, what happens if you have an agreement in place and you need to change it? In certain cases, the courts will allow you to modify your child support agreement to lower or increase the payments owed. Procedures for modification are different and depend on whether your child support amount is established in a contract Separation Agreement or in a court order.
In order to file for a modification of a court ordered child support amount, you need to determine whether your reasons for modifying the agreement would be considered a substantial change in circumstances, according to North Carolina law. In general, any major life events, such as being diagnosed with a serious medical illness that impacts your ability to work, losing a job through no fault of your own, or significant changes in health insurance coverage costs or child care costs for the children could be considered substantial enough to warrant a modification. Make sure to document the changes you are going through to give the courts the full picture of your situation.
Once you have done your research and collected evidence, you will need to file for a modification as soon as possible, particularly if you are the party who cannot afford your current payments. Waiting too long will keep you on the hook for past payments, even if you file for bankruptcy. You should always continue to make your payments or some amount of a payment, even if you are unable to pay them fully, to show the court that you are making an effort and truly require a change in the payment amount.
Ideally, you will work out a new agreement with your ex-spouse, but that is not always a realistic option. You may want to go through a mediation to help resolve your issues before going in front of a judge. An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through this process and help you file the appropriate paperwork depending on your situation.
Source: FindLaw, "Child Support Modification Tips," accessed on July 2, 2017