Child Support and Custody Modifications for Women

Trustworthy Family Law Attorneys Helping Women Navigate Child Support and Custody Modifications

When parents divorce or separate, they typically have a divorce decree outlining the terms of their separation, including child support payments, child custody arrangements, and other marital issues. However, over time, life situations can change, and you may need to modify the original divorce agreement. This could include child support or a child custody modification.

When your circumstances change, you cannot simply stop adhering to a court order. Instead, you should seek support from an experienced family law attorney who can help you secure a just outcome.

At Woodford Sathappan McGee, we are committed to the needs of women in all family law matters. Our lawyers prioritize mediation in these tough cases, and we hope parents agree on a fair child custody and child support arrangement together without bringing the case to court. However, if necessary, a child support attorney from our law firm will bring your case to a family court and fight aggressively on your behalf.

Utilizing our in-depth comprehension of family law, a variety of resources and expertise, and an empathetic approach, we will help ensure that the best interests of your children are protected.

Contact us today for a free consultation at 380-212-373. We represent women throughout Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. 

Mom and daughter sitting on bed hugging.

What is Child Support?

Parents have an obligation to take care of their children and provide financial support to uphold their basic needs. When parents are married or have a relationship together, they usually share this financial cost. However, when parents separate or divorce, the non-custodial parent must pay child support each month to help the custodial parent support the needs of the child or children.

In most cases, parents will either arrange a child support order in a divorce decree or through a court order. This support order will specify which parent is required to pay child support each month and the amount that they are required to pay. These payments will typically continue until the child turns 19, or they may be extended in specific circumstances, such as the child having a physical or mental disability.

Modification of Child Support Payments

When a child support arrangement is signed by a Judge, it is legally binding. However, as life progresses, it is natural that both the children’s needs and parents’ situation will change. In some instances, this can cause a child support arrangement to become untenable or unfair towards one parent. In these situations, the law permits parents to apply to the court to modify child support.

To apply for a modification request, one of two factors must apply:

  • Child support payments that would be ordered under current guidelines differ by 20% from what is outlined in the current agreement, and at least three years have passed.
  • There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances.

Material and Substantial Changes for Child Support Modification

Either parent can apply for a support modification request to a court, depending on their particular circumstances. Applying to modify a child support order can be quite complex, and you will need to convince a judge that the order should be changed. Some valid reasons for a material change in circumstances could include:

  • A change in a child custody arrangement.
  • The non-custodial parent has become unemployed or had a salary reduction, so they cannot afford to pay the original amount of child support.
  • Parent has had a salary increase, and they can now pay more child support.
  • The other parent got a new job with a better health insurance plan that is better for the child.
  • The child has a new interest or talent in an activity that requires extra financial support.
  • The child or children are going to university or further education that requires more support.
  • The child has developed a physical or mental disability and needs extra support to help with the expenses.
  • Changes to the child’s living arrangements.

How is Child Support Enforced?

The parent subject to a child support order has a legal requirement to make the payments each month on time. When the parent does not meet these requirements because of financial difficulties or otherwise, the primary caregiver can take legal enforcement action against the other parent.

Child support payments never disappear, and if they are owed to you, then your ex-spouse will need to pay what they owe you eventually. Even if they succeed in modifying an existing order, it will not change the value of back payments.

The consequences of a Judge enforcing a child support order can include:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license and other licenses.
  • Seizure of property.
  • A wage garnishment or order withholding money from your paycheck.
  • Loans, state contracts, and grants being withheld by the government.
  • Denial of your passport.
  • Fines for each month of non-payment.
  • Jail time of up to 6 months.

How is Child Support Calculated?

State-specific child support guidelines outline the amount of child support that should be awarded in each case. To determine what your child support payment will be, the paying parent’s net income will be the primary consideration, as well as the number of children the couple share.

In addition to the child support guidelines, there are several factors that will influence child support, and the Judge may increase or decrease the amount depending on the following circumstances:

  • Parent’s financial circumstances.
  • Overall needs of the child and the child’s emotional well-being.
  • Child custody arrangements.
  • The custodial parent receives spousal support payments.
  • Travel costs for visitation.
  • One parent has obligations or debts.
  • One parent has wage or salary deductions.
  • One or more child has a mental or physical disability that requires additional care.
  • One or more children require counseling because of the divorce.

A family law Judge will prioritize the best interests of the children involved to ensure that their needs are met and that their lives are not too different after a divorce. However, if one parent will struggle to make the payments, the Judge will also take this into consideration. A family law attorney can help ensure that the child support order awarded by the Judge is in your best interests.

A mom kissing her daughter as she buckles her into the car.

What is Child Custody?

Child custody laws and the legal language used vary between states. In Ohio, parents are granted parental rights and responsibilities, and in Indiana and Michigan, parents are granted legal custody and physical custody.

Parental rights or legal custody both refer to the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. For example, where the child goes to school, whether they practice a religion, and what medical care they receive. One or both parents can have the right to make decisions on behalf of their children.

Parental responsibilities or physical custody refer to where the child resides. It involves decisions such as where the child’s primary residence is and the time that each parent spends with their child. Parents could share parenting time equally, or it could be more practical for the child’s primary residence to be with one parent (the custodial parent), and for the other (the noncustodial parent) to be granted visitation rights.

A typical visitation schedule is one weekday evening and every other weekend. Parents cannot be granted less than minimum visitation unless they lose their parental rights. A parent could lose their parental rights if it is shown that they pose a risk to the child’s wellbeing. For example, if there is a history of child abuse or drug misuse. Even in these circumstances, the parent could still be granted supervised visitation.

Child custody decisions are often mediated between parents. This allows for a personalized arrangement and minimizes the involvement of the court. However, the court will still have the final say and will only approve an agreement if it is in line with state law.

Modification of Child Custody

A court-ordered child custody arrangement is legally binding. However, the court also recognizes that circumstances change, and what may have worked for a family before may no longer be practical or beneficial.

In order to change child custody, you must apply for a modification with the court, and you will need to show that there has been a material or substantial change in circumstances and that the modification is in the child’s best interests.

Justifications for a Modification of Child Custody

Here are some examples of when a Judge may consider changing a child custody arrangement. However, the courts prefer to prioritize stability in a child’s life as much as possible, so even if one of these justifications exists, the court may not always approve a child custody modification.

  • One parent has relocated.
  • One parent has a new job with a different work schedule.
  • One parent poses a danger to the child’s well-being.
  • The noncustodial parent repeatedly misses visitation.
  • The custodial parent refuses to facilitate visitation.
  • One of the parents has been involved in criminal activity.
  • A change in the mental or physical health of one of the parties involved in the arrangement.
  • The custodial parent remarries, and the new spouse is abusive.
  • Older children want to live with the other parent, especially if they are not doing well in school in their current home.

Understanding a Child’s Best Interests

In order to apply for a successful modification, the change must be in the child’s best interests. To determine what decision is in the child’s best interests, the court may consider factors such as:

  • The wishes of both parents.
  • The physical and mental health of both parents.
  • A history of abuse or neglect from either parent.
  • The ability of each parent to meet the childs current and future needs.
  • The child’s wishes may be considered, especially if 14 or older.
  • The child’s access to their community, including their friends, neighbors, wider family members, and school.
  • How involved each parent is in the child’s life, such as attending school events and arranging doctor’s appointments.

How is Custody Modified?

In order to modify a child custody arrangement, you should apply for a modification with the court. If both parents agree to the modification and the decisions being made are in the best interests of the child, then the modification should be fairly straightforward.

However, when parents disagree, then securing a modification will be more complex. The best thing to do is to speak to a family law attorney who can help you to try and mediate a new agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then your attorney will represent you in court to ensure a fair outcome.

Even if you and your ex-spouse do arrive at an agreement, the court may still choose to hold a hearing so that both parties have a chance to explain why the change is necessary and in the best interests of the child.

Failure to Comply With a Child Custody Order

If the noncustodial parent repeatedly misses visitation with their child, then this could also be a justification for a child custody modification; they could also face legal repercussions.

It is also essential that the custodial parent facilitates visitation, or they too could be in contempt of a court order and may therefore face legal repercussions.

If you are struggling to make a child custody arrangement work, then you should speak with an attorney. At Woodford Sathappan McGee, our first priority is always to protect family dynamics where possible. If the noncustodial parent is missing visitation, we will first try and mediate with them and give them a chance to explain why it is happening. We may be able to help you to mediate a new child custody arrangement that works better for everyone.

However, if your ex-spouse refuses to cooperate or continues to miss visitation, then we can help you to take legal action.

What to Do If You Are Concerned for Your Child’s Safety

If a child is in danger, then custody should be changed. If one parent is missing drugs or alcohol, has mental health content, or is acting irrationally, then it could endanger a child’s physical health and emotional development.

However, parents do not lose their rights easily, and you will need to present strong evidence as to why your ex-spouse poses a danger to your child.

If you or your children have suffered abuse from your child’s other parent, you should contact Woodford Sathappan McGee as soon as possible. Thanks to our dedication to women, we have created a space where women feel able to share their experiences. We will support you to feel supported and heard and will help you provide the evidence necessary for the judge to take action.

Child Support and Custody Modifications FAQ

If your ex-spouse loses their job, then your child support order will not automatically change. They will need to act quickly to apply for a modification, and in the meantime, they must continue to meet their obligations to you.

Each case is unique, so it is impossible to say how long a modification will take. However, at Woodford Sathappan McGee, we will help the process move forward as quickly as possible. We will first try to use mediation, and if both parents agree to the change, then the process will move along more quickly.

If you are seeking a modification, you will need to file in the same court where the original order was finalized. However, if your child has lived in another county for six months or more, then you may request a transfer to the child’s current home once the initial modification has been filed.

Usually, one year must have passed since the original child custody order before any party can apply for a modification, as this minimizes disruption in a child’s life. However, there are circumstances where a modification can be applied for sooner, such as if the child is in danger.

To modify a child support order, one year must have passed, or if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, then the order could be modified at any time. Your chances of success are higher if more time has passed. However, if just a few months have passed and the parent paying child support loses their job, then the court is likely to approve a modification.

An occasional missed payment will not result in serious ramifications so long as you pay what you owe eventually. However, payments do not disappear, and you must be paid eventually. If payments are repeatedly missed, then your spouse can take legal action, which can have serious consequences, such as fines and even a jail sentence.

Yes, it is possible that child support payments are decreased or increased when you file for a modification, depending on the circumstances.

No. It is important that you do not refuse visitation due to missed child support payments. They are considered separate issues, and if you refuse court-ordered visitation, then you could also be in contempt of court. Instead of trying to deal with missed child support payments alone, you should contact an experienced family law attorney.

Arrange a Free Consultation With WSM Today

At Woodford Sathappan McGee, we have one goal in common – to empower women to move forward with their lives by guiding them through their family law matters such as child custody and child support modifications. 

Whether we use skilled mediation, vigorous litigation, or simply lend a sympathetic ear when you need it, we always prioritize the needs of the women we work with and their children.

Call 380-212-3731 for a free consultation with a family law attorney today.