Last Updated on August 11, 2023 @ 8:30 am

Tips on Modifying Your Child Support Order

Modify Child Support

When an agreed upon or court ordered child support arrangement becomes impossible, due to a loss of income, change in marital status, or serious injury that prevents parent from working, it is possible for them to call for a change in the agreement. Either parent has the ability to petition the court for a child support modification, from either a parent looking to lower his or her payment or a parent petitioning for more financial support. Here are some tips to help you modify your child support order.

Best Practices to Modify Child Support

Work Quickly

If a parent finds himself or herself in a situation where he or she cannot make a child support payment in full or at all, money in arrears will still be owed. Arrears are basically defined as child support payments that have not been paid (some people call this “back support” that is owed). These arrears cannot be reduced retroactively or discharged as part of a bankruptcy. Because of this, it is important to begin the modification process as soon as possible to help avoid being overrun with back child support. Child support arrears also do not stop accruing simply because you called the other spouse, it must be done with the filing of a petition for modification of child support immediately – that is the only way to reduce support if you lose your job or are unable to pay.

Stay Informed

Parents who are involved with child support should keep themselves informed of the laws surrounding this topic for the state in which they live. Specifically, they should be well aware of what the state considers a significant enough change in order to modify the child support agreement. It is also a good idea for parents to consult an attorney in their area. Most states have a specific rule that child support will not be modified unless the child support amount should be raised or lowered by at least 10%. So, if a person currently owes $100 per month in child support, they will not be allowed to modify the support order unless the support amount should change to at least $110 per month or less than $90 per month. Trying to modify child support for an amount less than this 10% minimum in most states can sometimes force that parent to pay for the other parent’s attorney’s fees – so be careful in your approach and timing!

Negotiate with the Other Parent

Before submitting a petition for modification of child support to the court, parents should always try to negotiate an agreed upon modification to the child support agreement. Given the financial and emotional stress going to court carries, trying to come to an agreement is usually the best option even if it isn’t the easiest. Remember that mediation can be a powerful tool. But also keep in mind that the only thing that matters to the state when it does its accounting of your payments versus what you owe is when you filed your petition for modification of child support. Negotiating with the other parent is a good first step, but do not let this go on too long or your arrears will continue to accrue until you file your petition in court!

Document the Changes

Regardless of what the change in circumstances, whether it be a job change, layoff, injury, or pay cut, it is important for parents to make sure these financial changes are well documented. This means providing proof of losing your job, unemployment papers, an offer letter from a new employer, or a series of paychecks showing new salary or less hours over the past few weeks at least. Also, parents should know that these changes will only be considered for a child support modification after the initial child support agreement has been put into place.

Keep Paying

Even if a parent cannot afford to pay the full amount of their child support, they should continue to pay as much as they can until the agreement has been modified. By the parent putting forth his or her best effort, it will help to show the court that he or she is trying to honor the agreement, but simply cannot because of the current financial situation. Continuing to pay will also help to reduce the amount of back child support the parent will owe down the line. The biggest problem that parents who stop paying their child support in full face is a judge getting angry. A common thing heard from judges in child support cases like this is, “I understand you aren’t working, but your child still needs to eat! You have to pay something!” The best thing you can do is attempt to pay as much as possible so that the judge can view your struggle and see that you are committed to doing the right thing.

Follow These Tips to Lower Child Support the Right Way

Modifying child support is not easy to do. There are many factors that go in to the formula for lowering your child support amount. Speaking with an experienced child support attorney is always a good option, but if this is something you cannot afford, it is imperative to get started following the above steps right away. This will help you get things back on track with the state (who does the child support accounting) and help you get back on track with your life, as you will not have to worry about whether you did things the right way. The worst thing you can do is nothing – this will guarantee an angry ex, a mad judge, and the piling up of child support arrears.

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25 thoughts on “How Do I Lower My Child Support?”

  1. I have 3 children with my ex plus one child that is not my biological daughter named Annie. I signed a declaration of paternity for Annie because I found out she wasn’t my mine a few years after she was born and already had been taken care of her as if she was. I got attached and wanted to be in her life after the divorce. Now Annie is 12 and our relationship is strained and struggling. I took my ex to court to get partial custody and get her every other weekend along with my other kids. However my ex keeps her away from me and doesn’t allow her to come like she’s supposed to 95% of the time. Come to find out she has been in a relationship with Annie’s biological father since she was conceived and they live together. He not only provides for Annie but they spend time together and apparently have a great relationship. Once I found this out I told her to let him be financially responsible for her and relieve me of the burden since she has her biological father in her life fully. However my ex refused to give up the “extra” money she gets from me for Annie and won’t even let me see her. I give up and want to give her father the responsibility since he’s there and should take it. Not to mention the financial burden I have taking care of 4 kids with her and 2 with my new spouse. Annie doesn’t want to cspemd time with me most of the time because I can’t afford to spoil her like her mom and dad and they shake me for it. I rather have a rapport with her on my terms and not deal with her mother. What can I do?

    1. Nicholas Baker

      If your ex is denying you parenting time / visitation that has been ordered by a judge, in writing, she is in violation of the Courts Order and can be held in contempt of court.
      You need to hire a lawyer who will file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause (or Petition for Indirect Civil Contempt of Court), and they will demand an immediate change to the parenting plan, custody arrangement, and demand that your ex pay for your attorneys fees since you had to hire an attorney to enforce the Judge’s Order.
      Keeping kids away from parents is a serious offense and judges absolutely do not tolerate that type of behavior.
      But to prove contempt of court (in many states), you must prove the following:
      1. File a petition for rule to show cause that specifically identifies the Court’s Order (attached as an exhibit to the Petition) that was not followed by the other parent.
      2. Show, in the petition, that:
      a.) The court ordered your ex to do something (parenting schedule);
      b.) Your ex has not followed it;
      c.) There is no reasonable excuse for her to have not followed it.
      3. Serve it on the other parent – normally can be done via certified mail, return receipt requested; some states allow it to be done via their electronic filing system (if you have their proper email information), other states require it to be served by a special process server or the county sheriff’s office).
      4. At the hearing, your ex will have to prove a reasonable excuse why she did not follow the judges order – and if she can’t do so, she could be held in contempt of court.

      But, you have to act quickly here. This is not something you can allow to take place over and over again or it will appear that you have allowed her to change the parenting plan and have basically given her the green light to do so by not moving to enforce it sooner.

      Speak with one of our local child custody attorney experts right away!

  2. Freddie J Frazier

    Yes my name is Freddy I’m a 64 year old retired man drawing social security and they just start garnishing my social security check for $250 a month for back child support I don’t receive a lot of money from social security this dollar amount makes it very hard for me to survive I’m not saying I don’t owe back child support I just want to lower it my daughter who the child support is for will be 44 years old on June 21st of this year what I need is help lowering the back child support because social security is just not paying me enough can you help me with this again my name is Freddy

  3. California;
    I have 3 children with my ex she stayed with 2 girls I stayed with my son which I have had my son since he was 8months old and she has not interacted with him at all but I have with my daughters. My son don’t even know who she is or what she looks like even though we live in the same city and I have had visitation with my girls when all this started. For the passes 10yrs I have paid child support for my girls one has already turned 18yrs old last year and no longer paying for her. My other daughter turned 18 in Aug 2020. Once she turned 18 child support was stopped and I didn’t even receive any support for my son. My ex always claimed she wasn’t working or only working with minimal pay. She was on cash aide and food assistance. She’s been driving several fancy cars and lives in a house, has about 8 other children not including our 3 (total 11 kids and she’s only 38) After after several weeks I filed for child support to where she turned around and reopened our case stating our last daughter is still in high school and wants support now. She has not once ever offered or did anything to help with my son. In fact my fiancée even before we gots together who was first my best friend has been his mother whom he calls mom and only knows her as his mom. My ex don’t even care. But now that I filed she is more concerned about having to pay rather than looking at what in his best interest. Not to mention last year before both daughters turn 18yrs old I asked her for help with my arrears to use our girls for taxes so I can catch up. Instead she asked me for $4,000 and she would stop all support not once mentioned my son. She also told me no I can not use them because she is getting paid cash and will be doing her taxes which had never been brought up in court. She once again is claiming to only make about $800 a month but driving a $60,000 dollar car, living in a house and having more kids all in that budget. She is not married. What can I do? I believe it’s time for my son to have his interest in mind.

  4. I am the wife of a non custodial parent. We have been married since 2001. We have 2 children together, 16 and 6. He had a child outside our marriage; his son is 14. We move around a lot due to my job (I am Active Duty military), which means, that he has to chance jobs frequently. However, when he does work, he has the money taken directly from his checks. He is behind quite a bit, but not because he refuses to pay. He has tried to at least get his payments lowered due to the fact that he does have two other children. However, they ended up increasing his amount owed. I have even volunteered to have my stepson added to my medical and dental policies, but the mother will not send the documentation when our son comes to visit or at any other time. I have sent her info to show her the benefits of having him added to my records, but she has backed out every time. Long post short, how can my husband successfully have his payments lowered? The majority of his check goes to one of his children, while the other two are left with little to nothing. Inquiring minds want to know. He has a court date coming up shortly. I have gathered his W2s from the last few years and probably include tax returns as well. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I have a NC child support order but my ex and daughter live in Alaska. She now wants the child to stay with me where I live in Maryland. She says that where they live in Alaska there is no hospital. Plus she is a Physician Asst taking care of patients who are susceptible to the corona virus. This is why she wants the child to stay with me until at least school starts again in August 2020. Can I get my child support reduced for the time that she is staying with me?

  6. In 2013 I took a paternity test for a child that was possibly mine. 6 years later I get a call to come to the office that handles child support. I was told the mother had filed for assistance and therefore the father needed to pay child support. Well hold on. What child and who’s the mother and how come I know nothing about this until 6 years later? I asked how do you or whoever know I am the father? They said she said I was . I said well how come I took a paternity test 6 years ago and received a letter that said inconclusive? There response was that they haven’t tested the mother and child that this came up when assistance was filed. So I requested a test on them and 2 years later I get results saying that its in fact mine and it took them 2 years to run her down to take the test. Now she is demanding back child support for a child that she waited that long to figure out or even tell who the father was. I was never contacted. Why is it my problem to pay for back support when they took forever to test them so that they may finally receive support for a child I knew nothing about? So now I have a child that never knew his father and had no support from any father. She had me served with papers for back support plus continued support for a child that i knew nothing about and there is no visitation arrangements talked about in the papers. What the hell is goin on?

    1. This is a terrible situation but one we hear about on a pretty regular basis.
      Depending on the state you live in, there are numerous possibilities here. A few things play in to this in a major way as well. When the baby was born did you sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity? Where was the paternity test administered? Was the result of inconclusive sent back because there was no way to have it compared to the child’s because the child was never tested? These are just a few of the initial questions that are needed to be answered.
      Next, the issue of retroactive child support needs to be explored. This differs from state to state, but there are similar general ‘rules’ regarding this:
      Retroactive child support is for a time-period “prior to the filing of a petition for support.” So, even though the petition was recently filed, they are asking for support to be retroactively applied as if it was an order that was entered the day the child was born.
      Again, depending on the state, there are a few main factors that apply as to whether the court can make you responsible for a retroactive child support order, the main factors are the following:

      1) The prior knowledge of the person obligated to pay support of the fact and circumstances of the child’s birth.
      2) The father’s prior willingness or refusal to help raise or support the child.
      3) The extent to which the mother or the public agency bringing the action previously informed the person obligated to pay support of the child’s needs or attempted to seek or require the help of the person obligated to pay support in raising or supporting the child.
      4) The reasons the mother or the public agency did not file the action earlier.
      5) The extent to which the person obligated to pay support would be prejudiced by the delay in bringing the action.

      These factors are not necessarily conclusive that you should have to pay retroactive support or not pay retroactive support, but the primary guideline that a court will use to determine this. So it would be extremely important to take the above points, and below each one, have facts that prove your case that can be presented in an organized fashion.

      An example would be this:

      1) I was never told that this bay was mine, in fact, I took a DNA test and was given results that were inconclusive and never given a reason why.
      2) I had no knowledge, or I would have been involved.
      3) No one ever informed me of anything until now and no one ever contacted me regarding helping out with his child.
      4) Why didn’t anyone contact me? I have lived at the same address for 6-years (or) I have had the same phone number for 6-years (or) the mother has always been able to contact me at my parents house and she knows where they live (or) I’m facebook friends with he mother/mother’s friends and she could have contacted me; and she never did.
      5) I would be extremely prejudiced because no one ever informed me that this child was mine, no one ever told me that I had a child that needed support or I would have supported it, and there was always an easy way for the mother or state to contact me/find me to request support from me, which I would have paid.

      It is important that your facts correspond with the elements above, or different elements, depending on your state. Because of the possibility of this being thousands of dollars (likely more than $20,000) in retroactive support that the state and the mother are looking for (think: 6-years of a mere $400/month = $28,800.00!!!), you had better hire an attorney to ensure you aren’t taken to the cleaners. Put things in order and get in touch with an expert child custody attorney that can fight the retroactive child support on your behalf!

  7. Currently I’m paying child support for 1 child in my case. I only have my second born in file with the case but I haven’t added my 3rd born child will this help reduce my child support payment?

    1. In many states, child support is calculated based on the amount of children you have. This can have many different scenarios here. It might be reduced if you have a child living with you because that factors into the support amount, or it could be that other child support cases have a direct impact on reducing your income for calculation of child support in later filed cases, or in later born children.
      This requires working with an expert child support attorney because there are literally a dozen scenarios depending on your state that could apply here, so give our team a call.

  8. If a child is a court ordered school and was not living with his father,but mother will the father still need to pay child support. And the mother will not let father know where child is?

    1. Yes, the father should still be paying child support if the child is living with mother and there is a court order that states father should pay child support. If he is not paying support and was ordered to do so, go to court and file a petition for rule to show cause. This is a motion asking that he be held in contempt of court for violating the courts order by not paying support.

  9. do not trust anyone , been involved in child support payments for over 24 years. I even had custody of one son ,ex ordered to pay support,,,never received a dime. State of Colorado did nothing , why because I had the penis.

    1. Sad but so true I actually feel sorry for the father that are actually around and try but have to deal with bitter women

  10. My brother was recently demoted at work to a position that pays him less and he was hoping to lower his child support payments as well because of it. So I appreciate your tip to stay up to date with all the laws surrounding this issue so you can know what types of changes warrant a change to the original agreement between the parents. I’ll be sure to tell him that he should start looking up all the laws about child support so he can see if his job demotion warrants a lowering of the amount he has to pay.

  11. Hi, my Name is Norman, My ex applied for pubic assistance in New York City.I been giving 400 a month in post office money orders. I have to go to court for child support on November 2nd 2016.The social services are taking me for child support. What will I expect to happen in court on November 2nd.The documents say from 7/11/16 that I failed to pay child support till my court date 11/2/16. I have money orders to proof it.What should I be prepared for in court ? Please answer my question.

  12. Hi, I am a divorced father of 2 young children (6 and 2.5). They are amazing and I love them and would love to have them 50% of the time, but I hardly see them. I am paying my ex $2200/mth in child support plus nearly $1200/mth for child care (daycare plus sitters) and I take home 5k/mth. My rent is $1200/mth. I have had to borrow from my 401k and so now have an installment agreement to pay taxes at $250/mth After rent and bills I have almost nothing to live on, meaning buy food. I am about to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy as well because I’ve accumulate debt that I can’t pay. I’m in the state of NY and need to have the agreement modified. I’m trying to sort it out with me ex, but that is highly unlikely. If my ex won’t work with me I will find an attorney but if anyone has any serious advice I would highly appreciate it.

    1. Dude, it’s horrible what NYC awards these women! I paid my ex $100k from my pension, I pay for all the medical insurance for my two kids, I pay for my kids cell phones, I have co signed for all the college loans for my oldest, and I’m making the interest only payments on her student loans while she is in college. I pay for all the transportation when she comes home from school on breaks, I pick them up and drop them off for all visits pay all the tolls! Oh not to mention I pay $1600 a month in child support to this dead beat that hasn’t worked in over a year!

      1. Society now has so many dead beat dads that unfortunately leave a bad reputation for Father’s that truly want to be involved in their child’s life. Fathers that want to be involved should not be treated like second class citizens. All my respect goes out to the fathers that are fighting to be involved in their children’s life. Every state has different laws, my advice to the fathers is to never give up. Kids grow up and eventually get to an age where they know right from wrong. Look up and research the laws for custody and child support in your state. Always try to communicate with your kids. Never bad talk the mother because the kids are the victims in all this. It’s better for your kids to get older and know that dad never gave up to be a part of their lives, than for them to say my dad never came around or never tried. Co-parenting is hard but not impossible. Especially at the beginning, emotions are high and rational decisions are made only out of spite or resentment towards the parents. Instead of doing what is the child’s best interest. To all the REAL superhero FATHERS out there don’t give up! My son’s father is ordered to pay child support but hasn’t in 10 years. My son now is 13 and he knows right from wrong, our decree is one week on one week off. My son refuses to go with his dad and maybe sees him once every two months. My son has his own cell phone, his dad never calls. My ex won’t take me to court for not following the decree because he knows he will be arrested on the spot for child support arrears. But I thank god that my current husband is a fantastic father figure to my son and they have a great relationship. My husband supports him financially and even provides health insurance for him when that is also something my ex is ordered to provide. I feel that if the father wants to be involved custody should be 50-50 & child support should be paid by whom ever makes more money.

  13. My son is 8 years old, my exgirlfriend is a nightmare. She is vindictive and hateful, and brings me to court several times a year, always complaining she has no money. The court is pulling $$ from my checks over $700 every other week, plus I pay her extra money for back money owed (an average of an additional $500 a month. When all is said and done, I am left with about $700 to live on, I am going to be homeless, I need money to live on too. Depending on the judge we have, every time she drags me in, depends on my punishment. Most of the time, a they tell her, he’s paying you, why ate we here. This last time we went in, the judge wouldn’t let me talk, interrupted me and demanded I pay an additional $700 a month not the $500. How is this legal? What can I do?

    1. I had a pipe burst in my house recently(and had it fixed in days) My son happened to mention to his mother, what happened. She called cos on me. Said I endangered our son, then filed a court order to suspend my visitation, because of the open cups case.

  14. To Whom it may concern,

    I owe child support and it is seriously affecting my employment. I am not able to pay any of my household expenses. Child support is taking more than half of my income. It really make no sense for me to work at this time. I have file an grievances in regards to this matter and I have also requested an D&A test for all children. Child Support told me that because I did not comply to a paternal test when they presented one to me years ago they have come to the conclusion that the children are mines. That should be against the law. I have been in transition for many years and I’ve not once received a letter requesting a D&A test. Child Support has told me that it could take up to 180 days to review my modification request. In the mean time I cant afford to get back and forth to work let alone pay rent to keep a roof over my head. I believe I have a right to know if child support is taking more than half of my income if the children in question are mines. In fact the children do not have my last name nor did I sign a birth certificate. I agree that I was careless when I was young however I don’t think that any of these children in question are mines but one and her name is Alysha Roe. Please help me in this matter. I am looking for an attorney although child support is taking more than half of my income I will try to pay what fees are necessary.

    1. This is a paternity problem that presents itself all the time. Once you have not disputed that you are the father, the State can legally order you to pay support until that child turns 18 years old. It sounds like you have what is known as an “administrative order” for child support, rather than a court order. Your best move is to file a petition to modify support and a petition for DNA test in court, in front of a judge. This is the only way to get your support amount reduced quickly. Also, it is important that you show evidence as to why the support should be lowered to begin with – simply saying that you cannot afford your own bills is not good enough. You need to show that your income has lowered, things like that.

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