When parents separate, the child support order is one of the most important aspects of the divorce. The goal of the state’s guidelines is to ensure that the support order provides for the child’s needs. The terms should not put an undue financial burden on either parent.
But what happens if financial circumstances change? Connecticut law allows either parent to petition for a modification of a child support agreement when the original court order no longer reflects the financial circumstances.
Substantial changes in income
In Connecticut, a divorced parent may request a modification to child support when either ex-spouse has experienced a substantial and continuing change in income. The state considers a financial change substantial when it would alter the original support order award by at least 15%. A financial change is continuing when it may last indefinitely, as in the case of a job loss or raise.
For example, if a parent making support payments loses a job or suffers a dramatic loss in income, the court may lower his or her payments. However, if the parent receiving support loses income, the court may increase the payment amounts. Additionally, an ex-spouse may petition for higher payment amounts if the other parent’s net income has increased significantly.
Modification through the court system
Ex-spouses sometimes try to reach an informal agreement about child support changes. However, unless approved by the court, such an agreement is not enforceable. Additionally, failing to comply with the original support order may result in a charge of contempt of court.
Child support modification mediation
While parents must obtain the court’s approval when changing a support agreement, the process does not have to be litigious or contentious. Third party mediation by a neutral professional may help some former couples to negotiate a new support agreement that is fair for both parents and most beneficial for the child.