During the divorce process, it can take a lot of time and effort to reach an agreement on child support. However, there may come a time when the support order is no longer appropriate. When that happens, modification of the order might be necessary.

If your circumstances have changed or it has been a while since you reviewed your child support order, it would be a good idea to read the order and decide whether it still fits your situation.

Why people seek modifications

There are a few common reasons why modifying a child support order is the right thing to do:

  • The child’s needs have changed.
  • A parent’s resources have changed.
  • Custody has changed.

In these scenarios, the original order for support may no longer work. A paying parent may not be able to keep up with payments; a child may have more expenses parents need to cover; or financial windfall could mean existing orders are not proper.

When to seek a modification

That said, the courts require there to be a substantial change in circumstances to warrant modification unless three years have passed since the last order or modification. Substantial changes could include:

  • Diagnosis of a severe illness for parent or child
  • Increase or decrease in a parent’s income
  • Job loss
  • Dramatic changes in a child’s educational or health expenses
  • Shifts in where the child is living most of the time

Generally speaking, each of these could support a request for modification.

If there has not been a dramatic change in circumstances, parents still have options. In Georgia, parents can request a review of a support order when 36 months have passed.

Navigating the legal process

If parents can reach an agreement regarding modification, they can expedite the legal process with a settlement negotiation. Otherwise, it could take several months for a court to review the agreement and make a decision on modification.

However, whether you agree to modification out of court or not, parents must receive court approval for the proposed change to be enforceable. Until that happens, parties should make every effort to comply with the existing order. Failure to do so could create additional legal problems.

Modifying a child support order is not uncommon, but it can be more complicated than people expect. Legal guidance and familiarity with the process can help parents avoid costly missteps.