Indiana law is fairly specific about when you can ask for a child support modification. You may do so when there are significant changes to the situation that might make a modification necessary. You may also do so 12 months after the last child support order in certain cases.
If you’re not sure if you can successfully seek a child support modification but feel that something does need to change with your support agreement, consider speaking to a family law attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you understand all your options and what the right next steps for you and your family might be.
In the meantime, keep reading below to find out more about child support modifications, including who can ask for them and when it may be time to seek one.
What Is a Child Support Modification?
A child support modification is any change to a child support order that is already in place. Modifications can raise or lower the amount of support one parent must pay the other.
Either parent can request a child support modification—not just the person receiving the support.
When Does Indiana Law Allow a Request for a Child Support Modification?
Indiana law provides two times when a child support modification is appropriate. The first is a change of circumstance. This change must:
- Be substantial in nature
- Be continual
- Make the current child support order unreasonable
The second time when Indiana law allows a child support modification is when both of the following conditions are met:
- It has been 12 months since the most recent child support order
- If child support were calculated today, it would be at least 20% more or less than the current order
What Counts as a Substantial Change?
If you can demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances, you may be able to get a child support modification without waiting for 12 months. The Indiana guidelines on modification list the following as “substantial and continuing change:”
- One of the parents of the child or children becomes incarcerated
- One of the parents of the child or children experiences a large change in income
- A parenting plan is applied to the situation
- One or both of the parents fails to comply with a parenting plan that is already applied
- One of the parents of the child or children loses their job
- There is a significant change in expenses associated with raising one of the children
- Another child is born to either of the parents
For example, if a child is injured and is diagnosed with a disability as a result of that injury, this could lead to extra expenses in caring for the child. If the disability and those expenses are expected to continue long-term, this may count as a substantial and continuing change.
In another example, one parent may work full-time but have their hours cut back to part-time due to a recession. If that parent is unable to get other work elsewhere, a substantial and continual change in income may be at play.
If you don’t have a situation that can be counted as a substantial and continuing change, then you have to apply the 12-month rule. The reason the 12-month rule exists is to keep parents from applying for modifications every time there is a slight shift in income or other factors. The law also requires that there be at least a 20% difference for the modification to keep parents from tying up the courts for modifications of smaller amounts.
For example, say someone is ordered to pay $300 in child support. People’s incomes don’t stay exactly the same, and perhaps this person received a small raise after a year. Calculating support based on that new income amount would bring it to $310 per month. That’s not a difference of 20% or more, so a child support modification would probably not be allowed in this case.
Note that the courts do consider both sides of any child support matter and may deviate from calculations in some cases. For example, if the court applies guidelines and the new child support amount would create a financial hardship for the parent who has to pay it, the court may consider phasing in the extra support. That way, someone doesn’t go from one amount to a significantly higher amount of payments immediately.
How Hard Is It to Get Child Support Modified?
Getting a child support modification in Indiana is possible, but it may take a bit of work. First, you have to decide if you have a child support case for modification. Then, you have to make that case to the court. This can include presenting information and evidence about your expenses and income as well as reviewing similar information provided by the other parent.
An experienced child support lawyer can help you make a case for modification to ensure your children are properly supported or that you are paying what is fair under the law. If you think your child support should be modified—whether you’re the parent receiving it or paying it—contact the Law Office of Deidra N. Haynes to find out how we can help.