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Changing child support when your financial circumstances change

When parents choose to end their relationship through divorce or legal separation, the two most common sources of disputes involve finances and child custody. The agreements reached may be workable and suitable for your circumstances at the time, but over the months and years, things can change and, thereby, affect your financial capabilities.

If you find that your child support order no longer reflects the needs of your children or your ability to pay the full amount on a regular basis, you have options. The state of Washington allows parents to seek a modification as long as the applicant seeks these changes by following the required legal process.

Who is eligible for a modification?

Simply wanting to pay less or wanting more child support is not enough to merit a modification. Depending on the circumstances, either the custodial or non-custodial parent could request changes to an existing support order. Circumstances that may merit this action include:

  • One parent is now in jail
  • The paying parent has become severely disabled and is unable to work
  • Children have new, serious medical needs
  • Increase could alleviate need for public assistance
  • Job loss
  • Paying parent must support children from other relationships
  • Other significant changes in circumstances

Usually, the amount of any requested changes must be at least $100 and must represent a 25 percent increase or decrease in the current amount. You can also request a change if it has been at least three years since the last review or modification.

Protecting the best interests of your children

The purpose of child support is to protect the best interests of the children above all else. However, if a parent can no longer pay due to factors beyond his or her control or is unable to adequately meet the needs of the kids, it is appropriate to seek an understanding of modification eligibility requirements, as well as pursue a legal remedy for this situation.

When seeking a modification, a parent will find it most beneficial to secure the help of an attorney to navigate this process. Reaching a verbal agreement will not be sufficient, and by securing changes through the proper channels, you may be able to avoid conflicts and disagreements in the future. It protects both your interests and those of your children to follow the appropriate steps when you need to change your current child support order.