What if our situation changes?

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Can we change a child support agreement or court order?

Child support is based upon each parent’s particular circumstances at the time the child support order is made. If after the child support order is made, one or both parents have a significant change in their situation that affects their ability to pay child support, he or she can make a request to the court to change the child support order.  Also, if you agreed to less than guideline child support, the other parent can request a change in the order without showing any change in circumstances and support will be based on each parent’s current ability to pay child support. Depending on the situation, either parent might want to change the amount of child support that is paid. Changes in child support often make sense if either parent has had a significant change related to:

  • His or her income,
  • The other parent's income, or
  • The amount of time that each parent spends with the child.
  • Paying court ordered child support for other children.
  • Additional children to support who live in your home.

Once you ask the court to modify the amount of child support, the court will make its decision based on the current circumstances (mainly both parents' income and time-share with the child). This means that the child support amount could go either up or down. If you are not sure whether the change in circumstances will result in an increase or a decrease, you can ask the family law facilitator in your county to help calculate the estimates for you before you file papers to go to court. 

It is very important to remember that even if your circumstances have changed, the court cannot change support to a time any earlier than the date you file your paperwork with the court. So, for example, if you lost your job but do not file the paperwork with the court until 60 days later, the court cannot change your support back to the time you lost your job but only to the date you filed your paperwork. It is very important when you have a substantial change of circumstances that you seek help as soon as possible to determine if you should file for a change of child support.

Get more information on changing a child support order and step-by-step instructions.

If you agree to change the amount of support

If you and the other parent agree to change the amount of support in your current agreement according to the Child Support Guideline you will need to update the agreement in writing and submit it to the court for approval.

If you and the other parent agree that you want to change a child support order, you will have to apply to make the change in the court that has jurisdiction over the child support order. That is the court where the child support case was originally filed or the court where child support order was registered or most recently transferred. You and the other parent can ask the Family Law Facilitator to help you write up your agreement and explain how to get the court to approve the new child support order.  

If you and the other parent don’t agree to a change to your original written agreement, talk to a family law facilitator to find out what you should do next.

What happens if I receive child support and then get remarried?

If you remarry, the income of the new spouse does not generally affect the amount of child support. Either parent’s new spouse’s income is generally not considered when determining the amount of child support except that your new tax filing status will be used in the guideline calculator

What happens if I pay child support then have a second family?

If you are the paying parent and have a new family to support, you are still required by law to financially support your other children. However, having a second family is an example of a situation that the court might consider as a change in your situation and ability to pay child support. Also, if you have other children that you are paying court ordered child support for, the court will take that fact into account in reviewing your current child support.

What happens if we don’t have written agreement or order?

If you made a child support agreement with the other parent but don’t have it in writing, the agreement is not enforceable—that means the law cannot force the other parent to pay what you agreed to. If you went to court and got a child support order but don’t have a copy of it, ask the court clerk to help you get one.

If you never had an agreement or an order, see a family law facilitator or the local child support agency to find out what you should do next.