Changing Child Support

Authored By: Legal Aid of Northwest Texas - Dallas LSC Funded


Making changes to an existing child support order is not uncommon.

The court recognizes that circumstances change over a period of time, and that a previously determined court ordered child support obligation may not be the correct amount that should be paid presently.

Most states will not allow a request for modification on a child support order unless a significant amount of time has passed since the order was put into place. What this means is that, typically (each state is different), at least three years must pass (all situations are unique, so a reasonable amount of time may vary).

The court will look back over the period of time to understand the past and the current circumstances prior to making a decision for modification. The court will require that a significant change must have taken place. A few reasons that may constitute a significant change would be; an increase or decrease in income, a severe change in state child support guidelines or a change in child custody and/or visitation arrangements.

The court will not address the same issues brought forth in determining the original child support order.

The following are the common issues the court faces in child support modification hearings:

Change of Employment: If a parent changes jobs and his or her income has changed, this may be a sufficient reason for modifying support. Quitting a job or just taking some time off, while looking for new employment will not justify a reason for modifying the support order.

Change in Custody Arrangements: This is a very common reason for adjusting a child support order. If a child is now living with the parent paying support, then the other parent is not having the expenses he or she would have previously had.

Change in Visitation Schedules: If the visitation time with a parent increases or decreases significantly, then the support obligation may be adjusted to reflect the change. Often times this can be overlooked. However, you must remember that the obligation to pay child support and the right to visit your children are totally independent of each other. Under proper circumstances, you can be obligated to pay child support without having the right to visit. Alternatively, you can have the right to visit without being required to pay support.

Past-Due Child Support: Many parents question the amount of support they have paid or received over past years. There is no need to look back, because the court will not modify past due child support obligations. A court order for a child support payment becomes a judgment on the date the payment is due. Once the payment becomes a judgment, the court is not allowed to change the judgment. However, there may be other actions the court can take. If you have made a payment that you have not received credit for, the court can see that you receive proper credit. The court can also reduce the future child support obligation and apply part of your future payments to the back child support that has become a judgment.