Even the best thought-out plans may require changes as the needs of your children evolve and either parent’s financial situation changes. When the amount of child support provided no longer matches the child’s basic needs, it may be possible to ask for an increase in child support. How child support is calculated is not based on needs or expenses, but there may be other reasons that the child support should be modified. A parent who is struggling with an unfavorable financial situation (such as involuntary unemployment or pay cuts) can request a reduction in their child support payment amount. Whether a change in child support is possible will depend on how large of a change in circumstances is occurring. Our family law attorneys can help you understand some important facts about child support modifications in Michigan and provide answers to a few common questions.
Will I Have to Pay More Child Support if My Salary Increases?
If you are a parent who is paying child support every month, you may wonder what will happen if your salary increases or decreases. In most cases, a court will only grant a modification request if there is enough evidence of a permanent change. An ex-spouse cannot request that you pay more child support because you received a year-end bonus at work, due to this being a temporary increase in your paycheck. A one time increase may be possible in that situation. However, if they can demonstrate that you received a promotion with a permanent salary increase, for example, the court may grant your ex’s request. Or, if there is a pattern of a similar bonus each year.
Two other common reasons for requesting a modification are when the child’s health insurance is substantially increased, or when the parent paying child support loses their job involuntarily or suffers a pay cut and can no longer afford the current payment amount. However, a court will not accept a child support reduction request if the payer of child support quits their job or purposefully takes a salary cut in an attempt to evade their responsibilities. A voluntary reduction in income by the payer of support will almost always fail as a reason to reduce child support.
What Is the Process of Requesting a Child Support Modification?
In Michigan, you may request a child support review every 36 months. If child support payments are being made through the Friend of the Court, then the court will automatically review the child support order amount every 36 months. If you have opted out of the Friend of the Court system, then a motion can be filed with the court to request to opt back in and to request a child support review. Be ready to provide a list of documents that may include your most recent pay stubs, a copy of your latest federal and state tax returns, or a copy of your three most recent business tax returns (if you are self-employed).
If both ex-spouses come to an agreement regarding increasing or decreasing the amount of child support payments, they will still need to make their new arrangements official by filing a change request with the court. This process can often be rather simple and require a few forms to be submitted to the court, and if everything looks correct, the judge may approve the request without a hearing. Mutual agreement is the fastest and less costly way to obtain a child support modification order, but when that is not an option, parents will likely need to take their case to court. However, the court has final say on all agreements to modify child support.
What Should I Do if I Disagree With My Ex’s Request to Modify Child Support?
If your ex is requesting a change in your child support order that you believe is unreasonable, there are a few steps you may want to take, but it is highly probable that your case may end up in court. Generally speaking, judges are unwilling to make modifications to a child support order unless the other parent presents enough solid evidence to prove that the change is necessary in order to protect the child’s best interests. In other words, the burden of producing enough proof to support the modification request lies on the parent who is initiating it.
Once you receive the motion (written request) in the form of an official written document, you will have a chance to respond by submitting another official written document often referred to as a Response to Motion to Modify Support. In this document, you can explain exactly which aspects of the petition you agree with, disagree with, or need further explanations. You can then file your written response and participate in the hearing. Alternatively, you can choose to only participate in the hearing, or do nothing. If you choose to do nothing or do not attend the hearing, the judge will likely make modifications without you. During the hearing, it is important to document all the reasons why you believe the request to modify child support payments is not appropriate, and be prepared with enough evidence to back up your claim.
If you are unsure about how to proceed, you may find it helpful to consult a family law attorney, especially when you anticipate that the process might be tense or contentious. At ADAM, our family law attorneys have helped countless clients navigate the process of fighting back against unreasonable child support modification petitions. We have also helped our clients when they need to seek a reduction in the support payment amounts and can help you understand and protect your rights at every step of the way. If you have received a petition to modify your current child support order or need to initiate one, contact our skilled family law attorneys for an initial, no-cost case review to learn your options.