Child Support Modifications – Proving a “Substantial Change” in Circumstances

When a divorce becomes finalized in a divorce decree and you and your ex-spouse had children together, one of the parts of the decree will concern who pays child support and how much it will be. The amount that the court dictates for child support, however, is not something that can never be changed, though: Knowing that things can happen in life that impact someone’s financial situation, the family courts in New York allow for modifications to a child support obligation.

To get a modification to your child support obligation, you will have to petition to have it changed – it will not happen for you, even if you fall behind on your child support payments.

One of the ways to show that your petition for a child support modification should be granted is by proving there has been a “substantial change” to your circumstances. What New York family courts mean by a “substantial change,” however, is vague and fact-intensive, making it difficult to determine if you will succeed in showing that this is the case.

What is a “Substantial Change” to Your Circumstances?

When you petition the court for a child support modification, the thing that the court is most interested in is your ability to pay the current amount and, if you cannot, then what amount you are able to pay.

To succeed on a petition for child support modification, you will have to show that what you now make is much, much lower than what you made when the child support order was put in place.

To complicate matters, courts have determined that what you can pay in child support is not necessarily what you currently make in income: Instead, it is based on what you are able to make. As a result, you will not only have to prove that you now earn less; you will also have to show that you are not able to make more.

Proving an Inability to Earn More

Unfortunately, if a court finds that the “substantial change” that you are using to support a child support modification petition was caused by your own choice, then it will likely deny it. For example, in one case, the father of a child left a high-paying job at IBM in order to start his own business. When he petitioned the court to modify his child support obligation, though, the court denied it, saying that he was able to earn more… at his IBM job.

Let a Family Law Attorney Help You Prove a “Substantial Change”

The family law attorneys at the Bombardo Law Office file petitions to modify child support orders on a regular basis, many of which rest on a substantial change in someone’s life circumstances. Contact us to help in your case by calling (315)488-5544.

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