One of the things that makes a custody and child support settlement complicated is the inability of the parents and the court to see into the future. When circumstances change, a child support order that seemed fair at the time that it was awarded may end up being insufficient somewhere down the line. When that happens, you may need to pursue a modification in the original child support order. Take a look at some tips that can help you successfully gain an increase in your court-ordered child support.
Talk to the Other Parent First
In most cases, it's to your benefit to have a conversation with the non-custodial parent before you start filing legal documents. When your child's other parent receives a notice to appear in court for a child support modification hearing out of nowhere, they may feel as if they're being attacked, even if you didn't intend that. This can prompt the non-custodial parent to resist the possibility of a change in the child support order without giving your request proper consideration.
Instead, approach your ex directly and appeal to their sense of responsibility toward the children. Explain why you need the extra money, and be willing to negotiate. If the two of you can agree on a new child support amount, the job of getting the original order modified becomes much easier. You will still need to go to court and have the amount officially changed; this ensures that both parents understand and can be held to their end of the deal, but if you both agree on the amount, most family court judges will not have a problem approving it.
Even if you can't come to an agreement, making an attempt to work it out before court may you're your case; blindsiding your ex with a court summons can look like a vengeful act. Unless there's so much bad blood between you and your ex that you can't hold a civil conversation, it's always best to begin by approaching them directly, or at least notifying them that you'll be filing for a modification.
Be Ready to Justify Your Request
If you and your ex can't agree on a new child support amount, your next step will be to ask the court to modify the original order. For your request to be granted, you'll need to show a reason why you should receive an increase in your child support. Many custodial parents believe that they're entitled to an increase in child support any time the non-custodial parent's income increases, but this is not necessarily true.
Each state has their own guidelines on this issue. For example, in Maryland, an income increase of at least 25% is considered a good enough reason to modify a support order. If the noncustodial parent's income increase is less than 25%, you can still request a child support modification, but unless you have other reasons in addition to your ex's income increase, it may not be granted. It's worth checking out the guidelines for modification in your state before proceeding with your request.
Other reasons for requesting a child support increase include increases in your child's needs and expenses, such as health or educational costs that didn't exist (or weren't as high) when the original order was put in place. You can also argue that the costs of caring for your children have increased due to inflation, and that you need an increase for that reason. Whatever your reason, be prepared to show proof of the new expenses in the form of medical bills, tuition payments, receipts, and any other documentation that can help prove that your costs have increased.
When You Need a Lawyer
It's never a bad idea to engage the services of a legal professional any time that you have to go to court. However, if you and your ex can agree on a modified child support amount, or even if you both agree to the increase but need the court to settle the exact amount, you may be able to save the attorney's fees and navigate the modification hearing yourself.
However, if your ex outright refuses to cooperate, you will need a lawyer to help protect your interests in court. If you have any reason to think that your ex is hiding money, intentionally under-reporting income, or intentionally remaining underemployed in order to avoid paying more child support, your lawyer can use aggressive discovery methods to subpoena your ex's financial records and business records to prove that they can afford to pay more than they do.
A family law attorney can review your support order and your current circumstances and advise you about whether or not you have a good case for a support modification. If you're not sure whether or not you should proceed with a modification request, make an appointment with resources like Sanoba Karie L Attorney for professional legal advice.