In a divorce, the noncustodial parent generally makes child support payments to the custodial parent. The exact amount of those payments may be determined by formulas created by state law that takes into account the income of both parents as well as how many children need to be supported. In some cases, and usually, with the help of a child support lawyer, it may be possible to modify an initial support order.
You Can’t Modify Payments Unilaterally
When a support order is created, it stays in effect until a new one is issued. Therefore, you may be responsible for making back payments even if a new order reduces your obligation to provide financial support in the future. If a custodial parent is receiving public services, the state may go after the noncustodial parent for back support even if the custodial parent is sympathetic to his or her plight.
Modifications May Only Be Made Under Certain Circumstances
In most states, support modification may only be granted under certain circumstances. For instance, it may only be possible to get a modification if it has been several years since the original or last order was granted. Parents who are making payments may also have to show that they are making significantly less money than in the past. Absent a reduction in income, noncustodial parents might be granted a modification if they have incurred a significant expense, such as a large medical bill.
What If There Is No Court Order?
While not necessarily common, it is possible for a parent to support a child without a formal court order. The parents themselves may create an agreement as to how much support the noncustodial parent will pay and what it will be used for. However, it is likely that a judge will require even an informal agreement to be entered into the public record.
At that point, it becomes a binding order even if it was negotiated without court assistance. In the unlikely event that there is no formal support order, parents may work out for themselves what happens if payments aren’t made for a period of time. It is important to point out that custodial parents generally cannot withhold visitation or custody rights if current or back support payments are not made.
Why Is a Support Order So Hard to Modify?
Support orders are hard to modify because they are designed to provide for children without burdening the public. In many cases, such payments are a custodial parent’s sole source of income. The fact that child support is tax-free to the custodial parent makes each dollar go even further toward helping the child.
Whether you are making or receiving such payments, be sure to talk to an estate planning lawyer before you try to make any changes to your payments. In addition to helping with financial matters, it may be possible to change beneficiary designations or change the title to assets such as a principal residence or rental property.
Providing adequate financial support for a child can make a big difference in how he or she is raised. It may play a role in how well that child does in school, from both an academic and emotional standpoint. Therefore, it is critical that parents speak with an attorney, like a family lawyer in Lake Forest, IL, to learn more about their rights and obligations when it comes to raising their son or daughter separately.
Thank you to the experts at Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC., for their input into family law.