How to Modify Your Child Support Payments in Louisiana
By Beverly Bird
Louisiana used to lag a bit behind other states with regard to pro se litigants – people handling their own divorce cases without attorneys – but the state has made strides in recent years. Although you can't find family court forms online, many parishes offer self-help resource centers. The Department of Children and Family Services runs the state’s child support program, and you can get help there as well.
Request Review of Your Order
If you’ve been paying support through the Department of Children and Family Services, you can request the agency review your support order once every three years. You won’t have to prove your circumstances have changed so drastically that child support should be modified because you're entitled to simply request one review during each three-year period. Call your local DCFS office or make the request in writing. DCFS will notify your ex that you’ve requested a review. Each of you then has 20 days to provide the office with current income information. The agency will recalculate the amount of support based that information to make sure your child support obligation is appropriate for your circumstances.
Seek a Court Order
If your support order has already been changed in the last three years, or if it is not yet three years old, you must prove a change of circumstances to the court. Maybe your child has recently left your ex’s household and moved in with you, or your employer has downsized and you’re suddenly out of work. Or perhaps one of your children has developed special needs. You can still approach DCFS if the agency has been handling your support obligation. Staff will decide whether the new events in your life constitute a genuine change of circumstances and, if so, will schedule a court appearance for you so a judge can make the final decision.
You can go to the court directly for a modification if your child support case isn’t managed by the DCFS by filing a motion for modification. You must still prove a significant change of circumstances if your support order has been changed in the last three years.
Visit a Self-Help Resource Center
Many Louisiana parishes offer self-help centers staffed by volunteer lawyers, law students and paralegals. If you don’t want to hire a lawyer but also don’t feel comfortable filing a motion on your own, the center's staff can provide you with the forms you’ll need to file for a support modification. They can help you fill them out correctly and give you some guidance, but they can’t represent you in court.
You Can Modify Support by Agreement
You and your ex can negotiate a solution and submit the modification proposal to the court if you’re able to work together. The Fathers Rights Law Firm in Baton Rouge strongly recommends submitting your agreement to the court in writing so it can be memorialized into an enforceable court order. Until the court knows about your agreed-upon modification and it becomes a matter of record, your ex can still try to enforce your old support order. She could potentially charge you with arrears if the existing amount of support is higher than the new amount you’ve now agreed to.
Read More: How to Get Child Support With No Custody Agreement
If the change of circumstances hinges on your lack of employment, the court will want proof the change is not voluntary. If you can’t establish that your lack of work is due to factors beyond your control, it’s unlikely the judge will modify your child support order.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.