Parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially. When parents divorce, or in cases when parents were never married, the parent who does not have custody of the child must pay child support to fulfill his or her responsibility to meet the child’s financial needs. In some cases, parents’ situations change as time goes on and they need to change child support orders after the court issues them. Connecticut parents should be aware of when they may modify child support orders and why they need to make modifications in court.
When Can an Order Be Modified?
Connecticut law allows courts to modify existing child support orders if:
- Either parent has experienced a “substantial change” in circumstances from when the order was first issued
- The support order “substantially deviates” from the child support guidelines
A parent may petition for a modification of child support for several reasons. A parent may have experienced a significant decline in income, for instance by losing a job or taking a pay cut, and need to make lower child support payments. Conversely, one parent may be earning a great deal more money than when the order was issued and the other parent may believe that more of that increased income should go to meeting the child’s needs. In some cases, neither parents’ income has changed, but the cost of raising the child may have changed sizably. The court generally views a 15 percent deviation in either direction from the child support guidelines as “substantial.”
A parent may petition a Connecticut court for a child support modification if a Connecticut court initially issued the order and the other parent resides in Connecticut.
Why Use the Court to Modify an Order?
Some parents may think they have no need to use the court system to make changes to child support payments, believing that they can make arrangements privately with the other parent. However, if a parent fails to make support payments in the amount stated in the order, the parent is violating the order and could end up suffering for it — even if the other parent had previously agreed to the change.
Penalties for failure to pay child support can be severe, including:
- Withholding income, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits or tax returns
- Holding the parent in contempt of court if the court finds the failure to pay was willful
- Suspending the parent’s driver’s, professional, occupational or recreational license
Consult an Attorney
Child support is an important matter. Both parents need to contribute to make sure that the child has everything he or she needs. If you have questions about child support, contact a seasoned child support attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.