Child Support Child Support Modifications: Starting the Process

Child support orders are judicial orders or decrees issued by a judge. Any changes to the terms of the order requested by either parent generally require a judge to either modify the original order or approve a new agreement. In situations where both parents agree to child support modifications on their own, it still is necessary to make an appearance before a judge to have the child support order approved by the court.

How to Start the Process of Modifying Child Support Terms

In many instances, the parents of a child will not be able to agree on the terms for child support. A request must be made by one of the parents for a hearing in front of a family court judge. Both parents will be given the opportunity to argue proposed child support modifications. Family law does not generally permit judicial changes to be made to existing child support orders. A parent seeking a modification must show that there has been a significant change in their circumstances that would warrant a change to a child support order. Divorce typically presents more complicated situations where family court judges need to take extra care to ensure that the best interests of the child are maintained throughout the entire process. Significant changes to child support orders can easily harm the well being of a child. As a result, child support laws are designed to maintain stability in the household by resisting changes to support orders unless clearly warranted.

Temporary and Permanent Child Support Modifications

A child support modification approved by the court can either be a permanent or temporary change, dependent upon the circumstances that resulted in the change to the existing order. Temporary circumstances that result in the modification of a child support order can be approved due to any of the following:
  • a medical emergency concerning the child;
  • the loss of employment by a parent;
  • a parent requires hospitalization for a significant period of time.
Permanent modifications of a child support order will typically be granted where significant and permanent changes to a parent's situation occur. Examples of such circumstances include:
  • the remarriage of a parent which causes a substantial increase in that parent's household income (which then might warrant an increase to the amount of child support payments);
  • a parent suffers a permanent disability;
  • a parent experiences a change of employment (or unemployment) which changes their income;
  • changes are made to existing child support laws;
  • the needs of the child change significantly.

Is a Judge Required for All Support Modifications?

There are times where modifications to child support orders do not require an appearance in front of a judge. It is common for judges to include a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) clause in all the child support orders they grant. COLA adjusts child support payments annually to keep payments in line with the general cost of living. Increases and decreases are based upon accepted economic indicators. As the modified amount can be determined by performing a simple arithmetic calculation, an appearance in front of a judge is typically unnecessary for COLA modifications to child support terms.
Divorce & Family Law
Child Support Modification
About author
Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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Michael Wechsler
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