In order to reduce your child support payments, you must petition the court and allow a judge to make a decision. This is usually referred to as filing a motion to modify child support. This process can vary slightly from state to state, but the general procedure is the same. To protect your interests, you should not reduce your child support payments without formally involving the court; an informal agreement between the parties cannot be enforced by a judge and the original order will be adhered to if conflicts arise. Also, petitioning the court does not mean that your child support payments will automatically be reduced. The judge must agree with you that your situation is substantial enough that it justifies a reduction.
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Filing a Motion
Locate the appropriate motion forms. These can be obtained by going to your local courthouse or searching your state's online court website.
Complete the motion forms. In your paperwork, explain that you want to lower your child support payments and say why you think this is necessary. If you recently lost your job or took a pay cut, tell the court.
Attach any proof to your motion forms. Since this is a financial motion, you usually have to submit proof of your income. Attach your most recent pay stubs as well as your last year's tax return. If you are collecting unemployment or disability, attach that paperwork as well.
Complete a Case Information Statement. Most states require you to complete this form, also called a financial affidavit, if you are attempting to change your child support. This form requires you to list your income and all of your assets and debts. Copies and instructions are usually available at your local courthouse.
Serve your ex with the motion papers. This requires you to mail or hand-deliver the paperwork. You must submit proof to the court so the court knows your ex received the paperwork. If you send the paperwork by mail, use a tracking service. If you personally serve your ex, use a courier service, which will submit a receipt for you. The court will send you notice with the date of your court hearing.
Proving Changed Circumstances
Familiarize yourself with your state's legal standard for reducing child support. In most states, you must show a significant change in circumstances before the court will let you lower your child support.
Show the court how you have tried to find new employment if you have recently lost your job. Save copies of job advertisements that you have applied for and any rejection letters you receive. If you have gone on job interviews, ask those companies to provide you with a letter proving this.
Show the court proof of your disability if you have lost your ability to work due to the disability. This would include any letters you received from your state disability office or your private disability insurance company. You should also save your medical records and have your doctor write a letter to the court explaining your disability and how it limits your ability to earn.
Demonstrate to the court why your expenses have increased. If you had another child, tell the court. If your new spouse has lost her job, be prepared to prove this to the court. If your rent or utilities increased, save this paperwork and submit it to the court.
Prove to the court that your ex's income has increased. You will need to show the court how you know this is the case. You will not be permitted to guess at your ex's income. If you heard about your ex's increased income "through the grapevine," the court generally will not find this sufficient. If you have copies of your ex's paystubs or a letter from your ex's new employer confirming she works there, provide this to the court.