Can Child Support Be Modified Because of Financial Hardship?

Published On: February 11, 2022Categories: Family Law

Hudson Valley Area Family Law AttorneyWhen a child’s parents decide to end their relationship, child support will usually be necessary to ensure that the child will have the necessary financial resources to meet their needs. While child support is typically ordered during a couple’s divorce, it may also be appropriate in cases where parents were never married. The amount that a parent will be required to pay will be based on the income they earn and the number of children they are supporting. However, after a child support order is created, a parent may experience financial difficulties that affect their ability to make payments as required. In these cases, parents will want to understand when child support obligations may be modified.

Valid Reasons for Modifying Child Support

Courts in New York may allow for modifications of child support in the following circumstances:

  • Changes in circumstances – If either parent or a child being supported experiences a “substantial change in circumstances,” a parent may request a modification of a child support order. These may include changes in child custody arrangements, such as the amount of time a child lives in each parent’s home, which may necessitate an adjustment in the amount of support paid. Changes in parents’ or children’s needs may also be a reason for a modification, such as a parent experiencing health issues that require them to pay additional medical expenses, leaving less money left over to pay child support.

  • Passage of time – If it has been at least three years since a child support order was created or when it was most recently modified, either parent may request a modification to ensure that a child support order is based on the parents’ current incomes.

  • Involuntary changes in income – If either parent’s income has changed by at least 15%, including an increase or decrease, a modification of child support may be appropriate. Notably, this change must be involuntary, so if a parent’s income decreases because they chose to reduce the number of hours they work, a request for a child support modification may not be granted.

Even if a parent who pays child support experiences financial difficulties, they will still be required to pay child support as ordered until the court grants a modification. If a parent falls behind on child support payments, the New York Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) may increase the amount of their payments by as much as 50 percent until the amount that is past due is paid off. However, this increase cannot cause a person’s annual income after child support is deducted to fall below what is known as the “annual self-support reserve.” For 2021, this amount was set at $17,388.

Parents who are concerned about meeting their financial obligations will want to act quickly to request modifications of child support when necessary. If a modification is granted, it may become effective on the date that a petition was filed, regardless of when a person experienced changes to their income or other types of financial hardship. Addressing these issues quickly will help a person avoid penalties due to the non-payment of support.

Contact Our Hudson Valley Child Support Lawyer

If you have questions about when and how you can modify your child support obligations, or if you wish to make other modifications to court orders related to your children, the Law Offices of Robert S. Lewis, P.C. can provide the legal help you need. Contact our Rockland County family law attorney at 845-358-7100 to set up a free consultation today.