What Happens At a Child Support Modification Hearing?
By Leslie Bloom
Updated March 08, 2018
Child support is required when married parents divorce or separate, or when one unmarried parent has custody. Child support must be paid to the custodial parent in all states by either mandate or court order. After the amount of support is determined, it can only be changed by a judge under certain circumstances, which vary by state. If both parents can’t agree on the amount of the modified child support, they may need to have a child support modification hearing to help determine the new amount of child support.
Evidence and arguments are presented by parents at a child support modification hearing to help a judge determine if a change in child support is warranted.
Purpose of a Child Support Modification Hearing
A child support modification hearing is held to determine what the new child support payment should be after a change in life events. Life events that may require a modification hearing include a change in jobs or marital status, and financial hardship, incarceration or serious injury.
Child support payments can be increased or decreased only by order of a judge. The non-custodial parent cannot change the amount of child support he pays without a court order. Depending on the state, a child support modification hearing is always required or may be needed only when both parents can’t agree on a new amount for child support.
Who Attends a Child Support Modification Hearing
Child support modification hearings involve the children’s parents and a judge. If the parents have retained lawyers to help them, lawyers are also present. Children do not typically attend a child support modification hearing.
What to Expect at a Child Support Modification Hearing
A child support modification hearing is fairly routine. At the hearing, the parent requesting a change in child support presents a statement making the request along with paperwork to support her claim. Since child support is based on the income of both parents, each must present evidence of their current financial status, such as income statements, tax returns and budget. Each parent can also make arguments supporting his or her stance on the proposed modification. If lawyers are retained, the lawyers present this information on behalf of the parents.
The judge will request the custody agreement of the parents to help determine if and how much to modify child support. Once all of the information has been presented, the judge reviews the case to determine if a modification should be granted.
The factors a judge considers when making a determination vary by state. In California, for example, modification is typically granted if the change impacts the amount of monthly child support by either 20 percent or $50, whichever is less. In Wyoming, the modification must impact the amount of monthly child support by at least 20 percent, and the original child support order cannot have been reviewed or modified in the prior six months. In South Carolina, the difference in the monthly payment must be 10 percent or greater.
The final step is for the judge to approve or deny the modification. If the modification is denied, the existing child support continues. If the modification is approved, the new child support amount will be paid once the judgement is filed by the court. This can take several months.
Leslie is a Los Angeles native with more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of online and print publications. She has degrees in both journalism and law.