Once a payor’s child support obligation has been set by court order or decree, it will remain at the ordered amount for the ordered length of time unless and until one of the parties files a motion to modify it.
Modification of child support is permitted under Arkansas law when the gross income of the payor goes up or goes down by more than 20% or more than $100 per month. A change in income in either of these amounts is called a “material change in circumstances.” Additionally, modification is permissible if the payor has a change in his or her ability to provide health insurance for the child or children. Modification can be possible under several other circumstances, too, if there is an enforcement case open with the Office of Child Support Enforcement (“OCSE”). Click here to visit my page about enforcement of child support orders, including those enforced by OCSE.
Ordinarily, the custodial parent is entitled to notice of a change of income in the payor. This notice is usually indirect, where the payor is simply obligated to provide his or her last year’s tax returns within some period of time after they are filed, regardless of whether the reflect a material change in circumstances.
As I indicated above, the payor’s child support obligation remains at the ordered amount until the court enters a new order changing it. Thus, if the payor loses his or her job and has a significant reduction in income, their child support obligation remains the same until the court orders it reduced. This is true even if the custodial parent agrees to let the payor pay less. (If you’re a payor and the custodial parent has made such an agreement, make sure to get it in writing. Then follow be sure to file your motion as outlined below. Alternatively, if the custodial parent is willing to make this agreement, it’s even better to just go ahead and get them to sign an agreed order to that effect and sen that to the court when you file your motion.)
Once you file a motion for modification, it may take several months before the court can set a hearing date. It may take that long to get the order modifying the child support obligation. This is particularly unhelpful if the payor has experiences a significant loss in income or if the custodial parent experiences a significant increase in child-related expenses. Sometimes, the motion for modification can be drafted in such as way as to ask the court for a very brief, emergency hearing, which may make it possible to get a hearing date more quickly. Also, even if it takes several months to get the court order modifying the child support obligation, the court will usually make the modification retroactive back to the date the motion was filed.
As always, if you have any questions about child support modification, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’m happy to visit with you about it. I can be reached on my cell phone at 501-519-0186, or at the office at 501-222-7378, or by email at email@example.com.
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