Whether you are receiving or paying child support, a significant change in your life may prompt you to want to change the support amount from the original order. You or your ex may have had a shift in your lifestyle, or as children grow, their needs change. So where does that leave you if the child support no longer seems adequate? If there is a significant change in income or expenses, the urgency of this situation is apparent. Read below to learn more about your options in Arkansas.
What are Common Reasons for Modifications to Child Support?
Life can seem to change in the blink of an eye at times. Changes to your lifestyle may occur, significant shifts in income or changes to the needs of the child as they age are all common changes that occur that may prompt a modification in child support.
For example, you completed training and can now take on an increased income in your new career. Or your child is growing up, and their interests in sports or other extracurricular activities have changed. Maybe your ex-spouse lost their job and is forced to take a deduction in income at an alternative career to support their family. Changes in income are one of the leading causes for modifications to be requested.
While it is unrealistic to think that each life change should signify a modification of support, there are some cases in which it is necessary.
How Often Can Modifications Be Made?
Generally speaking, if just one of the changes discussed above has occurred, it may not be significant enough for the courts to approve a modification. Suppose a couple or more significant changes have occurred, and it has been more than 36 months since the last modification or initial order for support was made. In that case, you may have a chance at getting an amendment approved for your family.
Either parent may request a modification for child support. A written request for changes can be filed with the clerk of court, a hearing set, and a judge can choose whether or not to approve the requested changes. All modifications must be made and signed by a judge.
Courts do not take or make modifications lightly. For example, if a shift in income has occurred but is less than 20%, it is unlikely that the judge will deem this as a material change, and this can mean that a modification is denied.
When is a Formal Modification Unnecessary?
Child support in Arkansas automatically ends when the child is emancipated. No request for modification needs to be made; the payments will no longer be required after emancipation. However, these payments must still be made if past-due support is owed until the total amount owed is satisfied.
Suppose more than one child is on the support order, and one is emancipated. In that case, you can review the child support order with a local child support office or a trusted attorney to ensure that the remaining children receive adequate support according to the original order. Any necessary changes can be addressed at this time, and modifications can be requested at this time to ensure that all bases are covered moving forward.
Can My Ex and I Avoid the Courts to Modify Support Payments?
In some cases, if you and your ex can amicably discuss the changes that need to be made and agree to them, you may be able to avoid filing a formal request for modification through the courts. This can occur when both parents agree to the significant changes needed, decide on the revised amount moving forward, and feel confident in their ability to hold each other accountable.
You can work together with your ex to draw up the revised support agreement and submit it to the court for approval. Once the courts approve, the changes occur immediately and must be adhered to by both parties.
How Can an Attorney Help?
In most cases, financial struggles are the leading cause of requests to modify child support. What this can mean for your family is that bills are piling up in the meantime and putting you and your family in a position of financial distress. You don’t have to navigate these changes alone.
Working with an experienced attorney can bring peace of mind that you are covering all your bases and that you are getting what is rightfully yours and can keep taking care of your children. If the situation allows, an attorney can typically assist you with a brief emergency hearing to expedite the process and relieve the financial strain on your family.
Don’t suffer and wait to request changes due to the overwhelm of the process. Working with an experienced attorney can help you understand the process thoroughly, position yourself to obtain financial relief, and put together a plan that gets you back to the essential things in life, like making memories with your children.
On the contrary, if you are a non-custodial parent and are now facing financial strain due to unforeseen circumstances, an attorney can similarly work with you to ensure this temporary circumstance doesn’t financially affect you and your family.
Contact our office today at (870) 336-6505 to speak with an experienced attorney regarding your details and learn how we can work together to best assist you. We have several years of helping clients in the area who are likely facing a similar scenario, and we are confident in our ability to help you.