Robert G. Smith, PLLC

How do I modify a New York child support order?

Child support in New York can be relatively simple or very complex. Depending on the financial resources of each parent, the number of children and the relationship between the divorced parents can all affect the eventual complexity of the child support agreement and its operation.

Once an agreement is in place and functioning, of course, there can be changes the will work to make that agreement impractical or unfair. This will necessitate a trip to your attorney's office and eventually to the courthouse, to obtain a modification of the child support order. Some idea of the complexity of request can be gained by merely browsing the forms page of the New York Courts for child support issues.

Before you speak with your attorney, you must understand that in order to successfully petition the court to approve a modification of your Child Support Standards Act support order, you must be able to prove to the court that you or your child has suffered a substantial change in circumstances.

You may at first think that that is a very vague standard. It is, and intentionally so, as the legislature would find it virtually impossible for to develop a more precise standard that would be sufficiently flexible to be applied by judges in family court to the innumerable variations of "substantial change" that they witness.

To show substantial change, you need to show such things as your child has been diagnosed with some medical condition that greatly increases your medical expenses and other care costs. Or, that you have lost a job and after a well-documented, and comprehensive job search, you were unable to obtain employment at similar salary.

If your change involves your income, it must be at least a 15 percent change, and if it was a reduction, it must be involuntary. Courts are alert to efforts by high-income individuals who attempt to manipulate their income in such a manner as to make it appear that they have suffered a loss in earnings and are entitled to a commensurate reduction in child support obligations.

Such behavior is unlikely to be rewarded by the court.

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Robert G. Smith, PLLC
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