Most parents want to ensure their children have what they need to grow up happy and healthy, but sometimes parents find the child support payments they're ordered to pay too financially burdensome. If you're struggling to meet your support obligation every month, here are three ways to get the amount reduced to something more manageable.
Show Your Financial Situation Has Changed
The amount of child support you are required to pay was calculated based on the income and assets reported to the court at the time the order went into effect. If since then you've suffered a financial setback that's expected to continue into the foreseeable future, you can request the court modify the support order so the amount better fits within your current budget.
For instance, if you were forced to take a lower-paying job because your previous employer went out of business, the court may grant a modification and recalculate the monthly payments based on your current income.
Be aware that any change in your financial situation must be substantial and permanent to warrant a long-term modification to a child support order; otherwise, the court may only grant a temporary reduction that lasts a few months or deny your request outright. For example, the court feels you're perfectly capable of finding employment that pays what you earned before based on your skills and work history and so will only grant you a six-month reprieve in your obligation.
It may be a good idea to discuss the issue with a family attorney who can advise you on how a modification request may play out in court based on your particular circumstance so you can prepare yourself properly.
Enroll the Child in a Benefits Program
Another way to reduce the amount of money you are required to pay is to enroll the child in any benefits program he or she is eligible for. When deciding how much money the non-custodial parent must contribute, the court will typically look at the custodial parent's income as well as money the child may be receiving from other sources. Thus, signing a child up for a benefits program where he or she receives a monthly stipend can result in a reduction in the amount you're required to pay.
For example, if you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your child may be eligible for derivative benefits that represent up to 50 percent of what you receive. If you successfully get your child enrolled in this program, the amount you have to pay may drop by the amount the child receives from SSDI.
There may be other programs available that may offer similar benefits. You can usually uncover information about them by conducting research online or contacting your local Department of Human Services.
Prove You Make Substantial Contributions to Other Expenses
Non-support contributions to the child's welfare may also justify a reduction in child support as long as those contributions are substantial and meaningful. For instance, the court may consider reducing your monthly payments if you pay your child's school tuition every semester or maintain medical insurance for him or her. On the other hand, buying food and clothing for the child is not considered a substantial contribution because that's the minimum parents should do for their children.
Make sure, though, that the extras you're paying for aren't a stipulation of your divorce decree. If they are, the court may feel those things were already taken into consideration when the child support order was put in place, so you may have a difficult time winning a reduction based on them.
For help with getting a support order adjusted or other family law issues, contact a family lawyer.