Many people seem to think that the terms of a divorce are essentially written in stone once a judge signs a divorce decree. To a certain extent, this is accurate. Issues like asset division only end up revisited in extreme situations, possibly involving hidden assets or even fraud. Both child support and spousal support (also known as alimony), however, can change to reflect changes in your life.
Life has a way of delivering the unexpected in truly surprising ways. You could experience a sudden accident that forces you into early retirement. The business you worked for or even owned could end up failing, leaving you with substantially reduced income. If you find yourself in a vastly different situation, it may be time to consider a support modification.
The court issues support amounts via court order
As you may already realize, child support and spousal support both get established through court orders issued by the family courts when they finalize your divorce or begin divorce proceedings, in the case of temporary support orders. Simply failing to pay the full amount on time as outlined in the order could result in enforcement actions.
While your situation may have changed, the courts aren’t omniscient. They are dealing with thousands of families across Maryland who need their assistance. If you need to have the amount of support adjusted to better reflect your current financial situation, the onus is on you to take the first step.
Amounts get reviewed every three years or on request
In general, the courts do review child and potentially spousal support orders roughly every three years. This helps ensure that the amount of support is appropriate for both the person paying and those who depend on it. However, if you find yourself suddenly making less money than you were at the time of the order, you shouldn’t wait until three years have passed to address the issue.
You can request a modification hearing, where you will have a chance to present evidence and testimony about your how your situation has changed. The courts can review information including changes to your income, family situation or employment status to determine if the amount of support currently ordered is appropriate, fair and sustainable.
A change in situation can mean a change in payments
If your income or living situation has changed drastically, the courts can determine that a lower amount is more appropriate given your current situation.
Having a new family or children could also impact your child support, and the courts will take your growing family size into consideration as well as your income and the financial and medical needs of your children from your previous marriage.
Instead of reducing the payment amount on your own, if your situation has changed substantially, it’s time to look into modifying the support order.