During divorce, the courts try to determine a fair support arrangement based on the economic circumstances of each spouse as well as the expected needs of shared children. 

However, there are many events that can change either a parent’s ability to meet financial obligations or the level of financial support that a child requires. From a sudden loss of employment or income to extraordinary medical expenses related to a child’s injury or illness, divorced parents may request a modification to support payments when the original order no longer reflects financial facts. 

When does the law allow parents to change a support order?

For the court to grant support modification, the petitioning party must show that his or her circumstances or the circumstances of the child have changed significantly and permanently since the date of the standing order. In addition to a job loss or pay cut, examples of substantially changed circumstances may include an injury, illness or disability, specialized educational needs or an increase or decrease in parenting time. 

Which parent can request a modification?

Either parent may request an increase or decrease in support payments. An ex-spouse receiving support may seek higher payments if he or she loses a job, a child develops unanticipated financial needs or if the other parent’s income has substantially increased. On the other hand, a parent who is no longer reasonably able to fulfill payments may request a decrease in support. 

Is it necessary to go to court?

When divorced parents can agree to modify a support order, a mediator can help them to settle on a new payment arrangement that is fair, workable and likely to receive judicial approval without going to court. However, it is important to do so through the official modification process to ensure that the change is legally enforceable. 

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