Child Support Modification

Any family law attorney will tell you clients frequently ask if child support obligations are modifiable. In the economic times we live in it is only natural for a parent paying support to want to decrease his or her obligation, while a parent receiving support undoubtedly wants an increase in support payments.

New Legislation

In October of 2010 a new law was enacted changing the way the Court can modify child support. Under the old law, support was still modifiable, but different standards applied based on how the obligation was initially determined. If the obligation was initially determined by a Family Court Support Magistrate or by a divorce decree that was merged then a modification was warranted upon demonstrating a substantial change in circumstances.

In instances of settlement agreements or oral stipulations that were incorporated, but not merged with a divorce decree, a support obligation was only modifiable based on an unanticipated or unreasonable change in circumstances.

Under the new child support statute, the standard the court will impose on modification petitions is simply a substantial change in circumstances. This holds true whether the child support obligation was initially imposed by a Family Court order, an unmerged divorce or by an agreement that was incorporated, but not merged into a divorce decree.

In addition, child support is modifiable if:

1. Three years have passed since the order was entered, last modified or adjusted; OR
2. There has been a change in either party’s gross income by 15% of more since the order was last entered, modified or adjusted.

In cases of a downward modification based solely on a reduced income, a child support obligation will only be reduced if the reduction of income was involuntary and the party made diligent attempts to secure employment commensurate with his or her education, ability and experience.

For more information on modifying a child support order, please contact Ross S. Gelber at 716-632-5919 or rgelber@rossgelberlaw.com.