Child support payments are calculated largely using the relative salaries of each parent. The more a parent who is paying support makes, the more he or she usually has to pay. Anytime a parent involved in child support has a major change in earnings it makes sense to get child support adjusted.
Ability to pay is important
Federal law requires that state-set child support guidelines must take parental income and ability to pay into account. That means that a parent should not be bankrupted trying to pay child support. After all, if a parent was living with the child in a two-parent home the parent could still only provide what they have.
On the other hand, if a parent is wealthy he or she will generally have to provide the type of support that a wealthy parent would provide under normal circumstances. As a result, child support awards are tied closely to a parent’s job and the earning power that comes with it.
Income is easy to measure for most people, as you can just look at a salary on a tax return. Some people, like business owners or salesmen, can have wildly fluctuating incomes, though. In that case, the parties will typically argue over what the judge should consider the proper income level moving forward and the judge will just decide. Incomes are typically used to produce support guidelines, which judges can either accept or modify.
Substantial change in circumstances
Child support orders will typically last from the day a judge signs them until the day the child turns 18. Family law cases take an enormous amount of resources for the courts to keep up with, so once support is awarded the courts do not want to have to revisit those rewards over and over again.
Typically, a parent can get an order reviewed at any time by only if they can prove a substantial change in circumstances.
A new job is often a substantial change in circumstance, but it depends. A lateral move from one job to a similar one may not be a significant change. If the job requires a move or will interfere with the parent’s custody arrangement, it may be substantial. A large salary change will also be substantial in most cases, but a minor promotion will not be.
You can wait for the next periodic review
Each state must give the parents an opportunity to revisit the child support order periodically, typically every three years. So, if you have a job change but you are unsure if a judge would consider it to be a substantial change, you may want to just wait until the next periodic review. Then you can request an adjustment at that time. Keep in mind that the other parent could have had a change too.
For example, if you are paying support and you want to lower the amount because your income has decreased, then you should be aware that if the other parent has also lost income your support payments could actually go up.