A lot of newly divorced parents do not realize it, but child support is not necessarily something that stays the same until the day their legal obligation ends. Circumstances change, and when that happens, it can impact child support.
When either parent’s circumstances change, it can impact the noncustodial parent’s child support obligation, that is if one of the parents goes back to court and asks the Family Court to modify the existing child support order. If neither parent goes back to court and requests a modification, the current child support order remains in force even if it does not accurately reflect the parents’ circumstances.
Changes in Circumstances
What types of changes in circumstances can impact a child support order? Here are some examples of the types of changes that can change a child support obligation, providing one of the parents asks the court for a modification:
- The child moves in with a friend or relative
- The child moves in with the noncustodial parent
- The noncustodial parent becomes unemployed
- The income of either parent drops significantly
- The child’s medical expenses increase significantly
- The parents move back in with each other
- The noncustodial parent becomes incarcerated in a jail or prison
- There is another substantial change in circumstances
In Pennsylvania, if either parent’s circumstances change significantly, he or she can ask the court for an upward or downward modification of child support. However, child support orders are NOT retroactive – this is very important to understand. For example, if a noncustodial parent loses his job in January, he can’t ask the court for a modification in July and expect the court to reduce his obligation from back in January.
Instead, the modification will start from the date in July when the Family Court judge approved the modification. From that date forward, not from the date he lost his job, the child support obligation will be reduced.