Child Support Modifications: When and How to Make Changes

By Michael DiFalco

When your children are young, they need formula and diapers. Those expenses disappear as they age, and new ones, like school supplies and braces, replace them. However, while your minor children’s need for your financial support will not change as they grow, your financial situation might. 

You may find it more difficult to make ends meet if you are divorced or separated and have a child support order in place. For this reason, New York law permits either the parent paying child support or the recipient parent to ask the court to modify the child support obligation. 

These modifications can make the obligation more fair for both parents while still ensuring that your child’s needs are met. Take a closer look at when and how to make these changes.

Reasons a Court May Modify Child Support

Before a New York court will modify an existing child support order, there must be a valid reason for the modification to take place. If you or your former spouse encounter any of these situations, it might be time to modify an existing child support order:

Substantial Change in Circumstances

First, if either party experiences a substantial change in their circumstances, this could be grounds for a child support modification. The change must be unforeseen, not the fault of the party requesting the modification, and expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Permanently disabling injuries and terminal illness diagnoses will usually qualify as a substantial change in circumstances. Conversely, courts will not usually find temporary periods of:

  • unemployment,
  • a temporary illness,
  • or marrying a new partner

to be substantial changes in circumstances.

Increase or Reduction in Income

Modifications are also permitted when either your or your ex-partner’s income changes by more than 15%. As is true with substantial changes in circumstances, a party cannot purposefully reduce their income to lower their child support obligation. 

For example, if you are ordered to pay child support, you cannot quit your job or purposefully take a lower-paying job just to pay less child support.

Seeking Modifications as a Parent

It is common for each parent to seek a modification if their own income decreases significantly or if they believe the other parent’s income has increased. Keep in mind that a child support obligation could increase or decrease depending on the income of the parties, not on who filed for the modification. 

For instance, just because the recipient parent requested an increase in child support does not mean the court cannot lower the child support obligation if the parties’ income supports it.

Passage of Three Years

It may also be time to modify your existing child support orders if a certain amount of time has passed since they were put into place. The court can review orders that are at least three years old.

Depending on your and the other parent’s income, the court could increase, reduce, or decline to modify the child support obligation.

How to Modify Child Support Orders in New York 

When it comes to modifying orders for a substantial change in circumstances, the party alleging that there has been a substantial change bears the responsibility for proving that such a change has occurred. This change must be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence. 

In other words, the party seeking to modify child support because of a substantial change in circumstances must show the court that it is more likely than not true that such a change has occurred. This principle also holds true for cases of an increase or reduction in income.

To modify orders due to the passage of time, the court would order both you and your ex to submit verification of your current income so the current child support order’s appropriateness could be reviewed. 

A Skilled Garden City Child Support Lawyer Can Help

No matter your reason for needing to modify child support orders, a family law attorney is vital. At Aiello & DiFalco LLP, we can review your unique situation and fight to protect the best interests of both you and your child. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced Garden City child support lawyer today.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.