A child support order is a court's formal command that someone must pay. However, a child support order is never permanent. The paying parent has the right to ask the court to modify the order based on a variety of circumstances. Here is what everyone involved in a child support case should know about modifications.

Petitioning the Court

Generally, a child support order stands until a court revokes or modifies it. You typically have to petition the court for a modification. A child support attorney can help you draw up a modification petition.

People are sometimes tempted to sort these things out with the other parent and not involve the court. However, it's best to have everything on the record. Otherwise, the court might find you in contempt because the original order still stands. Also, it's effectively impossible to change things this way if the court has ordered a payroll processor to garnish the amount from your wages.

Grounds for a Modification

Child support law allows either side to seek a modification. Normally, the paying parent is the more likely one to request changes. To do so, they must have grounds for a modification. Otherwise, the judge may dismiss the case without hearing it.

Shifts in income and employment status tend to be the big drivers of modification orders. If a parent loses their job, for example, they may struggle to keep paying. A child support attorney can ask the court to reduce or eliminate what they owe until their financial circumstances improve.

A major reason the receiving parent might request a modification is if they find out the other person is making more money. They can request a hearing to ensure that the current support payment aligns with their ability to pay.

Courts also grant modifications if the custody situation changes. Unsurprisingly, someone will usually seek a modification if the child has completed their schooling and is over 18. Bear in mind, though, there may be support obligations into the college years.

You also should request a modification if the kid's needs have dramatically changed. A child might develop a medical condition, for example. In that case, the receiving parent might need to seek money for additional expenses.


Note that the courts value their time. Judges generally don't like to see frequent petitions unless there's a compelling case for doing it. However, there is no statutory limit on the frequency. Instead, the judge will likely tire of the petitions and simply not grant a review of the case if someone keeps asking.