A person who wants to change an unfair child support order must file a motion to modify the order. A motion is a formal request to a court to make a particular decision. Each jurisdiction will have its own rules concerning the format of a motion. A motion to modify an unfair child support order will ordinarily contain a series of numbered statements identifying the parties, identification of the existing order, how long the order has been in effect, a statement explaining why the existing order constitutes unfair child support, and a legal basis justifying why modification is necessary. After this motion is prepared, the person requesting a change in unfair child support must file it with the court, serve a copy to the opposing party and request a hearing.
Most jurisdictions allow modification of a child support order when there is a substantial change in circumstances to justify the change. For example, an employer may lay off a person from a job, which results in no income or lower income for one of the parents. Accordingly, a court may enter an order decreasing the amount child support that parent must pay. If a parent is suddenly earning more money, a court may increase the child support he or she is to pay.
Another example of a substantial change in circumstances occurs when a parent pays child support for multiple children and one of the children is no longer entitled to child support. The parent may then file a motion requesting that his or her child support payments be reduced. A child usually is entitled to receive child support until the child reaches the age of legal majority. In most jurisdictions, that is 18. If a child is emancipated or gets married before the age of majority, the child is no longer entitled to child support.
In contrast, many jurisdictions have certain circumstances under which they require a parent to continue paying child support past the age of majority. For example, if a child has a severe medical condition that prevents him from working and being self-supporting, a court may order child support to continue after the age of majority. A parent would have a difficult time arguing unfair child support in this situation, despite the age of the child.
The most important aspect of a motion to modify child support is developing a position that an existing order is unfair. It is most difficult to convince a court to lower child support. Most jurisdictions have established a best-interests-of-the-child standard to guide its courts when establishing and modifying child support. Hence, a person seeking modification must keep this in mind when developing an argument for presentation to the judge.