When the courts set the final terms for child custody and support in your divorce, they issue a final decree in the form of a court order. Many people view these documents as legally binding and permanent, but that isn’t always the case. While any court order is legally binding and requires compliance from its subjects, it is possible to change court orders if the circumstances in your life also change.
The child support that the courts ordered may no longer be reasonable or even feasible when your income or employment situation changes. If the income of your ex increases or if you change how much time you spend with the children, those factors could also influence your obligation to pay child support.
If you find yourself struggling to pay child support, you should make every effort to pay in full while exploring your options for relief, such as changing the amount you have to pay. You can ask the Virginia Courts for a formal modification of your child support order if your situation meets certain standards.
Has your income or the income of your ex changed significantly?
Maybe you got laid off and had to take a lower-paying job. Perhaps you decided to pursue a career with greater future potential that offers substantially lower entry-level pay. It’s even possible that your ex has gotten a better job that allows them to make substantially more money than they did at the time of you divorce.
All of those factors influence how much the courts can reasonably expect you to pay in child support. The courts look at everything from parenting time to income and special costs, like medical expenses and childcare, when setting the amount of child support for a family.
Of course, life changes quickly, and so can your financial circumstances. The greater the increase or decrease in your income or the income of the other parent, the more likely it is that the obligations for child support will change as a result. If you can’t currently pay your child support and meet the cost of supporting yourself, a modification may be your best option.
Make sure you have documentation to back up your request
It can take anywhere from several weeks to several months for the Virginia courts to schedule a modification hearing depending on the current volume of hearing requests. During that time, you should do your best to gather evidence that supports your request for change.
Documentation will increase your chances of success, which is important. Informal agreements with your ex can help you avoid aggressive enforcement actions, but Virginia can still take action, particularly if your child(ren) receive any state benefits. Only an official change of your support level can help you address the issue properly and protect you from obligations that you can’t meet.