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When child support modification may be needed

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Raising a child can be costly for many Maryland parents. It is often financially impossible for one parent to care for a child alone, which is why states go to great lengths to ensure that non-custodial parents are fulfilling their child support obligations. Nonetheless, what happens if a parent becomes unemployed for an extended period of time and cannot pay the monthly amount? Alternatively, what if the parent gets a better-paying job or a sizable raise; can the custodial parent request a child support increase? These are changes in circumstances that can be addressed in a child support agreement modification.

In life, nothing is certain. Circumstances may change for either party, and these changes may warrant a change in the current child support amount. However, the parent requesting the modification must be able to justify it. In addition, the situation warranting the justification must be permanent or at least substantial. For example, a permanent disability limiting one's ability to work and earn money would be justifiable, but a layoff might not.

If a parent believes that his or her situation requires a modification, it may be wise to consult with an attorney first to get feedback. If he or she agrees, then a motion must be filed with the court. The paperwork and requirements can often be found online. If the judge agrees that there has been a change in circumstances, then he or she will review any supporting documentation and make a decision.

For those struggling to make monthly child support payments, it is important to take action quickly. Avoiding the situation will just make matters worse because the debt will just pile up. Plus, authorities can order jail time and other punishment for failure to pay. Those in this situation should put forth their best effort to at least pay the other parent as much as possible until an agreement can be worked out.

Source: South Jersey Times, "Your Legal Corner: Modification of a child support order," Victoria M. Dalton, June 22, 2014

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