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Understanding the child support modification process

When Minnesota couples divorce and children are involved, one of the main issues confronting them is determining child support. A judge typically sets this amount based on the noncustodial parent's income and other factors related to the child's needs. Although many parents want to financially support their children as much as possible, sometimes the judge's order can seem unreasonable, especially if a noncustodial parent loses his or her job or is diagnosed with a serious illness. When this is the case, a parent can attempt to modify the amount owed, but there is a process that must be followed.

Because a child support order is determined by a judge, a judge must also approve any requests for modification, even if both parents agree to the modification. The modification also must be filed in the same court that issued the original order. Some parents may do this on their own, but it's wise to seek legal assistance in this case.

A custodial parent may also wish to increase the monthly payments to better help care for his or her child. Some of these cases, particularly those involving celebrities, have made the rounds in the news. A judge might agree to a child support increase if the noncustodial parent's net worth has dramatically increased - which is common among celebrities when they have been offered new jobs or contracts - or the noncustodial parent has remarried, which could signal more overall income (when taking the new spouse's income into consideration).

Parents may be upset to hear that the court typically does not approve modifications except in extreme cases. This is because divorce can be hard on a child and the court aims to keep some stability in the child's life during this difficult time. However, if the parent is experiencing some sort of financial hardship, such as disability or job loss, then the judge may allow at least a temporary child support modification. When it comes to child support payment issues, it's best to resolve them in the court system rather than avoid them altogether.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Support Modification FAQ," accessed Oct. 4, 2014

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