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Child support modifications: Significant change in income

While in some cases, an ordered child support amount may stay the same from the time of the order to when the child ages out, there are some circumstances under which the order would need to be modified. In general, either party may request to have the child support order reviewed to see if there are grounds for modification every two years, but if there is a significant change in income before the two years are up, either party may be able to petition sooner.

If the review is requested less than two years from the last, the requesting party will have to provide proof of the change in income. It's important to understand that the change in income must be significant based on the court's standards -- not what the party perceives. According to the courts, a significant change in income usually comes from a job change or receiving unexpected income such as through lottery winnings or an inheritance.

Even if there is a change in income, it does not guarantee that the child support amount will be modified. To be considered for modification, the new child support amount calculated after taking into consideration the changes in income must be at least 15 percent different than the existing order. If the paying parent is considered low income, the difference is lowered to 7.5 percent.

The review process begins with providing the child support office with updated information on all streams of income. However, it's a good idea to talk with an attorney before starting the review process to ensure you are aware of all of the possibilities. Once the review process begins, the child support order may be modified either up, down or stay the same, and it's important to be prepared.

Source: Department of Human Services, "Modification of Child Support," accessed July 30, 2015

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