When a noncustodial parent loses an income stream, might move the court to modify their current child support order to lower the amount paid. To modify an existing child support order, there must be a substantial, permanent, and involuntary change in circumstances in the life of either parent.
What is a substantial change?
If less than three years have passed since the most recent child support order was issued, a financial change is only substantial if it would cause child support payments to change a minimum of 15% but not less than $50.
If more than three years have passed since the most recent child support order was issued, a financial change is only substantial if it would cause payments to go change a minimum of 10% but not less than $25.
What is a permanent change?
A change is permanent if it lasts a minimum of six months. This means short-term changes will not meet the standard of permanency for the purpose of modifying a child support order.
For the purposes of modifying child support, a job loss is not a permanent change as you will likely find a new job. However, severe, life-long changes in your health that keep a parent out of the workforce might constitute a permanent change. Being unexpectedly forced into early retirement might also constitute a permanent change.
What is an involuntary change?
A change is involuntary if it is not the result of any actions or inactions of the party who suffered the change. Illnesses or layoffs generally are not voluntary.
If a parent in some way chose or caused the change to occur, it will not be considered involuntary. So, quitting a job, purposely being underemployed or committing a crime resulting in jail time are not involuntary changes.
Not all changes warrant a modification of child support
As this shows, not all changes in the life of noncustodial parents warrant a change in child support orders. They might be earning less income, but earning less income for a temporary time or due to one’s own actions generally will not constitute a substantial, involuntary and permanent change warranting a modification of child support.