How Much Child Support Is Too Much Child Support, and How Can the Payments Be Modified?
When two parents separate, Massachusetts law requires the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. This is intended to offset the custodial parent’s expenses for caring for the child or children. The amount of child support is determined by a judge, according to state-established guidelines that are based on the income of both parents, among other factors. Most of the time, child support payments and money needed to meet living expenses are fairly balance. However, circumstances can change, and you may find that you are paying too much child support and that can be a problem, but the children’s best interest is always held as the priority.
How much child support is too much?
The state guidelines for child support are just that, guidelines to provide a point of reference for determining how much a person should pay. There are many factors involved, including both parents’ income, child support or alimony that are paid to someone else, insurance, and other expenses. The amount of time each parent spends with the children is also taken into account.
If the amount that the judge assigns seems too high, you may be able to get a deviation from the guidelines and lower your obligation. But how much is too much? That is determined on a case by case basis. You may have lost your job, or your income may have been reduced. Your healthcare costs may have increased to the point that you can no longer afford it. The payments may have been too high from the beginning and you are unable to afford even the lowest cost housing available.
The court bases its determination on information it gets from both parents. All too often, the other parent will provide documentation that is not accurate or misleading in an effort to get more support. It is an unfortunate occurrence, but one that happens quite frequently. The custodial parent may not be honest when reporting their assets or income and that results in you paying too much child support.
Your child’s needs should always come first, and the courts will do that, but that doesn’t mean that you should be forced to live in your car in order to afford your payments. Good legal representation is vital in child support determinations. They can work for you to keep your payments low enough that you can meet your living expenses, while still supporting your children. Your payments should be fair but should not exceed what is necessary.
How can child support payments be modified?
If you find yourself responsible for child support payments that you cannot afford, you need to request a modification of your child support agreement. What you may not realize is that your child support obligation does not adjust automatically just because your situation changes. If something changes that impacts your income, making it difficult for you to pay your full amount, you will need to inform the court of the change and file a formal request for modification. And, just for the record, they usually aren’t retroactive either.
This modification must be done in the courtroom. Any other arrangement is not valid and could get you in legal trouble with a mountain of child support debt. You can’t make a verbal agreement with the other parent, or make arrangements in an email. It must go through the proper channels in order to be valid. Only then, will you be protected.
You can request a modification for your court ordered child support payments at any time and you can either go through the Department of Revenue (DOR), get an attorney to represent you, or handle your case on your own (not recommended). DOR can help you with your request if they are providing full services for enforcing and collecting on your child support order. You must also be one of the actual parents. No one can make the request in your stead. Additionally, the request can only address child support or health care. It cannot include visitation or any other matters.
The judge will make the determination whether or not to make the adjustment to your payments. You can get an idea of what your obligation will be using our child support payment calculator. When you go to court, make sure that you bring with you all necessary documentation showing how your situation has changed and why you can’t make your full payments.
If you believe that your child support needs to be modified, don’t try to take matters into your own hands. You need a Massachusetts family law attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable, one who will work hard to protect your rights. It is never a good idea to try to represent yourself in a family law case, especially when it involves child support or child custody. Contact our office today for your free consultation and get the representation that you deserve.