Child support can be modified. Unlike the division of property, which is permanent in a divorce, a child support arrangement can be modified to adjust for life changes.
Knowing when to request a review of child support can be a challenge. For many, the prospect of revisiting a child support agreement can be daunting. It can feel like reopening a can of worms. Still, adjusting child support may be necessary if there is a change in either parents' financial situation. This post provides guidance to help parents determine when they should request a review of child support.
General review guidelines
In order to review child support, the parent requesting the modification must show that there has been a "substantial change in circumstances." A substantial change of circumstances is deemed to have occurred automatically if more than 33 months have passed since the last time the court ordered support.
If less than 33 months have passed since the last time the court ordered support, then you have to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances other than the mere passage of time.
Typically a substantial change of circumstance will involve a change in income that would result in the monthly child support order increasing or decreasing by more than $50.00, although there is no hard and fast rule with regard to what monetary amount would constitute a substantial change in circumstances. That decision is at the complete discretion of the court. Each circumstance and case is unique and you should discuss your situation with a qualified child support attorney before seeking a modification of child support.
Other substantial changes in circumstances which would warrant a review of child support may be a change in the placement arrangement or a parent is no longer responsible for paying support due to the emancipation of a child.
Questions about change in circumstances
The following are some common questions about changes in circumstances affecting support:
- How does remarriage affect child support? — Remarriage alone does not affect child support because a new spouse has no legal obligation towards a child.
- What if child support was originally waived? — In Wisconsin, child support can never be waived. If neither parent is paying child support, that is considered a "hold open" of support. If child support was initially "held open," it may be revisited if there has been a substantial change in circumstances such as the loss of a job, a significant change in income or the passage of 33 months since the last child support order was made.
- How do I know if the other parent’s income has changed? — By law, you and the other parent are required to make a yearly exchange of financial information which includes proof of income. Proof may include paystubs, a copy of an employment contract, taxes or other evidence of income. If the other parent refuses to provide you with this information, you should discuss this with an experienced family law attorney who can provide you with all of your options in order to obtain this information.
Any time you have concerns or questions about modifying child support or child placement, you should consult with a Wisconsin family law attorney about your rights and your options.