You pay child support each month and you have since your marriage ended. However, you may wonder, is it possible for the amount you pay to change? The answer depends on whether the child support terms are in a contract agreement or in a court order.
North Carolina law indicates a party can file a motion to modify child support terms in a court order if they can show that there has been a substantial change of circumstances.
What counts as a “substantial change?”
A substantial change generally falls into one or more of these four categories. The categories include:
- Time: A general rule in North Carolina is that you can review and modify the original child support order after three years. After all, a lot can change in three years. This rule is built in to accommodate that.
- Finances: If either the paying parent or receiving parent experiences a significant change in income, that could be grounds for adjusting the child support order. For example, if the paying parent loses their job involuntarily, they can request a modification to their payments to accommodate the decrease in their income. The rules state that a “substantial” change in income would be a change of 15% or more.
- Needs: Your child’s needs will change as they get older, and the financial support required may have to change with them.
- Custody: If you and the other parent modify the custody agreement in a way that significantly affects the time-sharing arrangement between the two of you, then it is possible to modify the child support order as well.
If your child support terms are in a contract, such as a Separation Agreement, then the same legal standard does not apply. The terms of the contract would control, unless a parent files an action to ask the court to establish child support. If that happens, then under North Carolina law there is still a rebuttable presumption that the child support terms in the contract are reasonable, and even then, the other party may be able to recover damages under the contract if the court lowers the amount.
Change is just the first step
Even if you and your spouse agree to modify the child support order, there is still a legal process that must occur to make your agreement official. The appropriate paperwork would have to be filed for the court to enter a new order. If the amount was in a contract, then an amended agreement reflecting the new terms would have to be prepared..
Modifying your child support obligations can be a challenge, but is sometimes necessary. You should consult with a qualified legal professional to understand the process involved.