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Can parents ask for changes in their child-support orders?

Because supporting their children is a crucial function that is ordered by a court judge during divorce proceedings, many Washington parents may believe it cannot be changed. However, child support can be modified under special circumstances as long as it does not compromise the best interests of the child.

How can a parent request a child-support modification? Parents can go the Department of Child Support to have their current support order reviewed by filling out certain forms. This may seem simple enough, but the review can be tricky.

There are several factors used to determine if a parent is eligible for a modification. First, the department will determine whether Washington has jurisdiction for the child-support order. If the order was made in another state, then the parent should contact that state with an adjustment request. Second, the department looks at the amount being paid. Any modification should be around $100 or 25 percent of the current payment, this applies to requests for both increases and decreases. Third, the department will also consider modification if it has been three or more years since the support order was last reviewed. Fourth, the department will determine whether support modification is merited by significant changes in the life of the parent -- including whether the supporting parent is in jail, disabled, unemployed or has new children.

Requesting a support modification can be difficult for some parents, especially if their reason is medical or they are too busy to go through the entire process on their own. In these situations, a family law professional can help a parent with filing as well as validating why the modification is necessary. A professional can also help shed light on legal nuances that both noncustodial and custodial parents may not fully understand.

Source: Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, "Modification of a Child Support Order," Accessed on Nov. 19, 2014

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