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Modification of Child Support or Spouse Maintenance

Question: My income has changed significantly. Can I seek either a temporary or permanent modification of child support or spousal maintenance?

In order to be eligible for a downward modification of child support or spousal maintenance, a person must establish a change in circumstances that is both substantial and continuing. The burden is on the party requesting the modification to demonstrate this change.

Each case will be judged on its own facts. There isn’t a rule or ruling that applies to everyone. For example, in a relatively recent family law case, a former spouse gained new employment. He was making significantly more income although the employment had only begun seven months earlier. In that case, it was deemed sufficient continuing change to support a modification for an increase.

The modification process could take at least a few months from beginning to end, if not more, given the current limitations in the family law court system. However, if granted, a judge has the authority to make a modification retroactive to the day the opposing party was notified of it.

We recommend you keep careful records to substantiate both your income and expenditures during these extraordinary times, as well as all efforts to obtain an equivalent job if you lose yours or experience a significant decrease in income. Conversely, if your former spouse is seeking modification, you should expect to receive detailed information about their changed income as well. 

Finally, child support payments may have been withheld from your former spouse’s paycheck and submitted electronically by their employer to the clearinghouse. If your ex-spouse is now unemployed, they should pay the child support directly to the clearinghouse.

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