After a child’s parents separate or decide to divorce, a court can issue child custody and support orders that determine how much time the child will spend with each parent and how much support each parent is responsible for. Once a Tennessee family law judge issues a child support order, the payor must continue paying the other parent as ordered until the child reaches the age of majority or the support order is modified or terminated. Some parents go through significant changes in their lives or finances that necessitate a change in their support order. Depending on the circumstances, obtaining a child support modification that reflects those changes might be possible.

Who Can Ask for a Modification?

Either parent can file a request to modify their child support in Maryville, Tennessee. The parent who files the motion will have the burden to present evidence to the judge that there is at least a 15% difference between the currently ordered amount and the new amount.  If there is not at least a 15% variance, the Court will not modify child support.

Reasons Why a Modification Request Might Be Granted

While either the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent can seek a modification of the support order, there are certain circumstances under which a request is more likely to be granted by the court as detailed below.

Substantial and Material Change in Financial Circumstances

One of the most common reasons why a parent might request to modify child support is a substantial change in their financial circumstances. The parent making the request will have the burden to prove that a variance of at least 15% has occurred since the previous order. If the parent presents enough evidence to prove this variance, the court might consider the modification request. It is best to consult an experienced family law attorney at Ralls & Wooten to understand whether your situation meets the criteria and if you are eligible to receive a modification.

Changes in Child Custody

If the family’s circumstances have greatly changed since the custody order was issued, a parent might seek to modify custody. When custody of a child is modified, it can also affect the child support obligation because often the number of days of co-parenting each parent receives is changed or who pays for certain expenses like health insurance is changed. For example, if the parents previously shared custody, but one parent subsequently develops a drug addiction that places the child in danger when in their care, the court might modify the custody order by granting the other parent sole physical custody. In that case, the support order might be changed to reflect the updated child custody arrangement.

Having a New Child

When a parent has a new child, it can affect how much support they might have to pay. This is because the state’s guidelines consider the number of children the parent must support, including children who aren’t the subject of the original support order. However, this usually only has a very small effect on child support.

Does a Parent’s Remarriage Affect Ordered Support?

The support one parent is ordered to pay the other parent is because each of the child’s parents is expected to be responsible for supporting their children financially until they turn 18 and finish high school. It does not matter whether the parents are unmarried, divorced, or remarried. Under the guidelines, courts consider the monthly gross income of each parent, the number of children, and other factors. For purposes of support, income includes wages, salaries, commissions, Social Security benefits, retirement benefits, workers’ compensation payments, gifts, pensions, and many other forms of income. However, a new spouse’s income will not be considered by the court when deciding whether to modify support. New spouses are not legally obligated to support their step-children.

How to Modify Support

While parents can agree to change their support amount, that will not affect the support order. In most cases, a child’s parents will not agree to make changes, and an out-of-court agreement that conflicts with the support order is not binding without a new order.

The best approach is to seek help from an experienced lawyer. An attorney at the law firm of Ralls & Wooten can review your situation and explain your legal options. They can file a petition to modify your support with the court that has jurisdiction over your case. Once the petition is filed, your lawyer can then ensure it is properly served on your child’s other parent so they can respond. If the other parent objects to your request, a hearing will be scheduled. Your attorney and the other parent’s lawyer will be able to admit evidence demonstrating why your request should be granted or denied.

Retroactivity of Modified Support Orders

If your income has significantly changed since your support order, and you are having trouble making your support payments, it’s important to file a petition to modify as soon as possible. A modified order will only be retroactive back to the date your petition was filed with the court.

Consult an Attorney at Ralls & Wooten

If you believe you have grounds to ask for a modification of your child support order because of a significant change in your circumstances, you should speak with an experienced lawyer today. Contact Ralls & Wooten in Maryville at (865) 977-6899 to schedule a free consultation to modify child support orders.