What Circumstances May Constitute a Change in Child Support?

The application of child support is a mechanism that allows a child to be financially supported by both of his or her parents after a divorce, as well as providing a method for both parents to share in the costs associated with raising a child. Typically, when parents divorce, a child will reside primarily with one parent, known as the custodial parent. Since the child lives with that parent the majority of the time, that parent will often be responsible for a larger share of the child's expenses. By assessing child support, a court is able to balance these costs by ordering the non-custodial parent to pay a portion of their income to share in these expenses.

Most Gwinnett County parents are aware of what child support is and when it should be applied, but this knowledge may not extend to the potential modification of a child support order. Many parents may wonder when the amount of child support may be increased or decreased. The rule is that a significant change in circumstances must occur to change a child support order. What occurrences qualify as a significant change in circumstances though? Additionally, once a modification order is entered, is it in place permanently?

Child support modification may be either temporary or permanent. Temporary modifications are ordered in emergency situations or for circumstances that will last for a relatively short period of time. Changes in circumstances that may qualify for a child support modification include a medical emergency for the child or one of the parents, an extended hospital stay for one parent or the loss of employment for a parent that is short-term in nature. Permanent modifications are granted for changes that are viewed as long-term or of a permanent duration. Changes in circumstances that may necessitate a permanent modification include the remarriage of a parent, the disability of a parent, a change in the needs of a child, a change in the employment of a parent or an update to a statute or law governing child support.

If any of these events occur, a parent may motion a court to revise the current child support order. A parent should understand if the proposed change in circumstances would constitute a modification of the order and the duration of the anticipated change.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Child Support Modification FAQ," last accessed Aug. 10, 2014

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