Child Support Payments and Modifications

How Long Must Child Support Be Paid?

The duration of this responsibility depends upon state law. All states require both parents to be financially responsible for their child during the child's minority, generally through the child's high school years. A few states have extended the time for financial responsibility beyond the minority of the child. Child support can be terminated in the event of the death of the child, if the child goes on active duty in the armed forces, or if the child becomes emancipated or self-supporting.

Is Child Support Suspended During Summer Vacations with the Noncustodial Parent?

No, unless the parents agree to a different amount during vacation periods when the child(ren) are away for long periods of time with the non-custodial parent or the order says otherwise.

When Can a Child Support Order Be Changed or Modified?

An order for child support can be changed or modified any time there is a "material change in circumstances" from the time that the existing child support was issued. A material change in circumstances can take many forms. The change can be the result of changes in the parent's financial situation - such as appreciable difference in the amount of income earned, loss of a job, a large inheritance, or a change in the amount of time spent with the child. The material change in circumstance can be the result of a new situation for the child - such as large medical expenses, need for special education, or other unexpected requirements. A child support payment could be modified by stipulation between the parents (as long as guideline support factors have been accounted for) or by a noticed court hearing.

My Income Dropped Dramatically When I Was Laid Off My Job and Cannot Make My Child Support Payments. Is There Any Way I Can Lower the Payments?

Unexpected, significant decreases in income can be a reason to request modification of your child support order. Before incurring the additional expense of a court-mandated change, one route is to ask the other party to agree to a temporary reduction or deferral (if need be). If successful, put the terms in writing, sign, and date the document, preferably with the advice of a lawyer.

If that does not work, ask the court to modify the amount of the child support owed in the future, explaining your major and unavoidable drop in your financial situation, that the income is not likely to be replaced soon, and why the change would be fair. Most courts are sympathetic and receptive to making necessary changes in child support when you have experienced a financial setback. Again, paying a lawyer to help can pay for itself dozens of times over.

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