Under What Circumstances Can Child Support Be Modified?

During a divorce, most parents negotiate which will have primary custody of their children. The other spouse usually provides financial support for the children. The amount of child support is determined by income, housing needs and the child’s financial needs.

Later, when one of the parents faces a life event such as the loss of a job or a serious injury, the monthly child support amount needs to be modified.

How to modify child support

In Washington state, how you change the amount you pay in child support depends on whether the amount was determined by an administrative order or by a court order.

If your child support was determined through a Notice of Finding of Financial Responsibility by the state Division of Child Support (DCS), then you must fill out a form – the Petition for Modification-Administrative Order, or 9-208b.

This petition includes the meat of the matter: why you think the amount should be changed and what you think the amount should be. Once the form is received by the DCS and if all parties agree, then the amount will be modified. If all parties don’t agree, then there will be a telephone hearing to decide if the amount should be modified.

If your child support was determined by the court, then your request must go through the county prosecutor’s office along with several forms and data:

  • A Child Support Order Review, or form 9-741
  • A Confidential Information form
  • A Financial Declaration form
  • The Washington State Child Support Schedule, commonly referred to as “the worksheets”
  • Your most recent paystubs
  • Your most recent tax returns
  • Other financial documents the court needs

If the DCS decides the case should go forward, a prosecutor will guide the case through the legal system.

In other states, the amount you owe for child support doesn’t change until a judge in the same court where your divorce was adjudicated signs off on the new amount.

Don’t stop or change your payments too soon

Even if your spouse verbally agrees to a change in the amount, you are responsible for paying the previous amount until the change is official. Failure to pay the full amount leads to penalties such as interest and garnishment of wages.

Some child support amounts change automatically when a divorce calls for adjustments based on a cost-of-living adjustment.

Remember, the court will always consider the needs of the child above the needs of the parents when determining a child support amount.

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The Law Offices of Stacy D. Heard, PLLC

Stacy Heard is an accomplished and well-respected family law attorney in Seattle, Washington who has served clients for over 20 years. Stacy specializes in matrimonial and family law. She handles matters of divorce, high-conflict parenting plan/child custody issues, international custody disputes and Hague Convention cases, complex financial issues, relocation, restraining orders, child support, and modifications of Parenting Plans and Child Support Orders.

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