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How can a child support order be modified or enforced?

When determining the most suitable child custody arrangements, divorcing parents must also consider the financial needs of their children. This is where child support comes into play. However, this is not always an issue that is resolved. In some cases, divorced parents will need to revisit this decision, seeking either modification or enforcement.

How can a child support order be modified or enforced? In most states, child support is based on a formula or set guidelines. This is typically calculated by assessing the income and expenses of each parent. The payment owed each month or week is also subject to the special or specific needs of the child. This could include medical, educational or extracurricular activity needs. These needs can change from year to year, making it essential to consider if child support payments are in fact meeting the needs of the child or children.

Child support payments are often paid through deductions taken directly from a paycheck or through the assistance of a designated administrator. These situations create a record of payment from one parent to the other. However, some parents seek to avoid the obligations of child support by frequently changing jobs and moving out of the state. While this can complicate the process, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act can help locate non-compliant parents.

If child support payments are delinquent or continue to go unpaid, recipient parents can take steps to enforce a child support order. This could result in wage garnishment, seizure or property, civil and criminal contempt of court or intercepting tax refunds. There are various methods to enforce or obtain child support payments. However, if a parent is unable to meet child support obligations, it is important to consider mechanisms to modify the order.

If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as unemployment, change in income or medical or health issues, it is possible to file a motion to modify a child support order. Taking such a step could help a parent avoid serious penalties while also ensuring the financial needs of their child or children are continually met.

Source: Huffington Post, "A Legal Overview of Child Custody and Support in Divorce Cases," Brad Reid, June 24, 2016

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