Child support can cause a lot of conflict and resentment among parents. Although parents who have their child’s best interests at heart may hide their distress, it is very common for parents receiving support to feel like the amount is inadequate and parents paying support to feel like they are being bled dry.
Given the inevitable conflict, how do you know when a modification of a child support order is warranted? The law provides some specific guidelines, but courts also have a certain amount of discretion, so you need to present the best evidence to justify the result you hope to achieve.
Timing for a Modification
The courts can consider a request to modify child support only in certain circumstances. First, the request must be made by the child’s parent, legal guardian, or the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services. Second, the party requesting the modification must show that sufficient “changed circumstances” exist or three years have passed since the previous review or Order.
What types of changed circumstances justify a modification if less than three years have passed since the last order? The applicable statute specifies that a 20 percent change in the gross monthly income of the parent providing support qualifies as a change warranting review of support (or either parent if the parties share joint physical custody). A change in physical custody can also justify review of child support.
Changes in Income
Although either parent may have the right to request a review of a modification order when the parent providing support has a significant change in income, the modification does not happen automatically, and there is no guarantee that a request for modification will be granted. The parent will need to formally petition the court and present evidence to justify the request. This takes time and effort, so it may not make sense if a change in income is temporary, such as during a transition or when a parent receives a bonus.
Even if a change is long-term, if a judge feels that a parent is deliberately unemployed or under-employed, the court may refuse to modify a support order. It is wise to present arguments for or against modification with great care to fully show the justification for your desired outcome.
When You Should Seek a Modification
How do you know when you should seek a modification of a child support order? Remember that child support is designed to provide a child with a standard of living similar to what they would have had if the parents had stayed married. Consider whether circumstances have changed since the support order was established:
- Has your income increased or decreased significantly?
- Is the child living at your house more than they were earlier?
- Have the child’s needs changed significantly? Think about school, medical care, and important developmental activities
- Is your ex sharing financial information?
If three years have passed since the last support order, talk to your attorney to see whether circumstances may justify a change. You may want to exchange pay stubs with your ex to see how they compare to previous years. If your ex refuses to provide financial information, then it may be time to file a motion in court. However, the two of you can develop your own modification and file your plan with the court for approval, which saves time and money. The arrangement must be in writing and it must meet legal requirements to be enforceable. If parents verbally modify their arrangement, it is not legally recognizable, and one parent may go back to enforce the old agreement years later.
An Experienced Child Support Attorney Protects Your Interests
Whether you think it is time to modify a support order or you need to show why an existing order should remain in place, your best approach is to start by consulting a family law attorney who understands how courts handle child support modifications. At Naimi & Cerceo, we know how to present your most convincing arguments to reach your objectives in child support. Schedule a consultation today to find out how we could help.