Modifying Child Support Orders

Modifying Child Support Orders: How To Increase, Decrease, or End Child Support

Where do I file to modify my child support order?

File a Motion to Modify Child Support in court

  • with the Divorce Court that issued your divorce, legal separation, dissolution or CPO; or
  • with the Juvenile Court that issued your custody or paternity order; or

Request the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) to modify your prior order.

Why go to the Court?

You can apply to the Court at any time. You may not be able to get CSEA to help you except under certain circumstances. Only a court can deviate from the child support guidelines. If your case is simple and the other parent does not object, the Court may rule faster than the CSEA.

Why go to the CSEA?

You do not need a lawyer. You do not have to pay a fee.

What do I have to prove to get a child support order changed?

If your request is to the Court, you must prove:

  • a significant change in circumstances (change in child’s needs or parent’s income or earning ability) since the last order was issued; and
  • that this change will result in at least a 10% change in the child support order, either a reduction or an increase. Show the amount of the reduction by completing a child support worksheet. Some courts will prepare this for you.

Examples of change of circumstances you could argue to the Court: you lost your job; your work hours were cut; you got a new job but are making less money; the custodial parent got an increase in income since the last order; you now have another child for whom you are paying child support or another dependent; or your child has become ill or disabled;

If your request is to the Child Support Enforcement Agency:

  • If your support order is over 3 years old: you can ask for a change for any reason.
  • If your support order is less than 3 years old: you must prove one of the following specific reasons:
  • Either party has experienced a 30% change in income for at least six months, due to factors outside of their control.
  • Either party has been off work for the last 30 days due to factors outside of their control.
  • Either party was under-employed (worked below their skill level) or unemployed at the time the last order was set and now is employed full time.
  • You began receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • You become permanently disabled and can provide medical proof of your disability.
  • You are in jail or in an institution and have no assets to pay support.
  • Health insurance costs for your children have changed so much that it would result in a 10% change in your child support obligation.
  • The child for whom support is ordered is no longer eligible for support.
  • You are a member of the armed services and have been called to active duty for a period of more than 30 days.
  • The person paying you support has returned from active duty and is back to work.

What happens after you file a motion with the Court?

A copy of the motion will be sent to the opposing party. This is called "Service". You must call the Clerk of Courts periodically to ensure service is completed. If you do not know where the opposing party lives, call the CSEA for help. Once service is completed, a hearing date will be set. You must attend the hearing and prove to the judge that a "change in circumstances" has occurred. Bring whatever you need to prove your case with you to Court.

Always bring the following financial information:

  • copies of your checks, pay stubs, or income tax returns;
  • documents proving any benefit you receive such as an award letter or check stub

What if you disagree with the CSEA ruling or court decision?

If your case was decided in court by a magistrate, you can file objections to the magistrate's decision. The judge will review your case.

If your case was decided by the CSEA:

  • If the CSEA ruling modifies an original CSEA order, appeal in Juvenile Court.
  • If the CSEA ruling modifies a Juvenile or Domestic Relations order:
  • you can request an administrative CSEA hearing.
  • If you still disagree, you can appeal to the Court that issued the original order.

CAUTION! Keep paying support at the old amount until the order is changed.

How to determine the amount of child support owed.

A court orders child support based on child support guidelines and a worksheet. The Court will automatically order child support in the amount calculated by this worksheet unless one or both of the parents show that this amount is unjust or inappropriate and not in the best interest of the child.

When does my duty to pay child support end?

The law states that when one of the following events occurs, parents no longer have to pay child support:

  • Your child turns 18 years old and is no longer in high school.
  • Your child turns 19 years old (if they were still finishing high school at age 18)
  • Your child lives on his/her own, joined the military or married (even if not yet 18).
  • Your child no longer lives with the custodial parent or has moved in with you.
  • You have moved in with the custodial parent.

How do I terminate a child support order? 

  • call the CSEA and request termination, or
  • file a Motion to Terminate Child Support with the Court.

If you file a motion with the Court, they will either send you a notice that child support has terminated or schedule a hearing on the matter. At the hearing, be prepared to prove that one of these events has occurred.

This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice. Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012. CE-38-F156-CLAS