When can child support be changed or modified?
If you already have a child support order, you can ask the Family Court to increase or decrease the amount of child support if there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the last order. To do this you must show the court there is a reason for the change. Here are some reasons why child support could be changed:
- Either parent gets a raise or a new job that pays more;
- Either parent loses a job;
- The child’s needs increase;
- A change in the custody arrangement;
- An increase in child care expenses;
- The child turns 18 but is still in high school (not college); or
- The child is over 18 but is disabled.
Just like when your last child support amount was set, the Family Court will consider the parents’ income and expenses by using the child support formula. Click here for more information about the child support formula. If there is at least a 15% change in the amount of child support (up or down), the Family Court will issue a new order changing the amount of support. For example, if the previous child support amount was $100.00 and the formula now shows that it should be increased to $114.00, the Family Court will not modify the order. If it shows $116.00, the Family Court will change it to that amount.
Who can ask to change the amount of child support?
Either parent (or other person with legal custody) can ask. You can ask the Family Court for more support. Or you can ask to lower the support amount.
Who can help me file for child support modification?
You can ask the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) to help you file the paperwork. The BCSE can help both parents with the paperwork. The BCSE attorney does not represent either parent. The BSCE attorney only represents the State of West Virginia. More information can be found here.
Also, you can ask a lawyer to help you or you can file on your own.
Are there forms I can use?
Yes. The following forms must be filled out and filed with the Circuit Clerk’s Office:
Instructions for how to fill out the forms can be found here.
You will need to serve these forms on the other parent. Click here for more information about service of process.
What happens at the hearing?
There will be a hearing in Family Court in front of a Family Court Judge. An attorney for BCSE will also be at the hearing. At the hearing you and the other parent will each have a chance to say why you think support should be changed or left the same. Bring financial information to support what you are asking for, such as your most recent:
- Pay stubs, W-2s, income tax returns;
- Social security statements if you get disability;
- Bank statements;
- Child care expense receipts; and
- Medical care expense receipts.
You may also bring witnesses who know about the changes. The Family Court will apply the income and expense information to the child support formula. If there is at least a 15% change in the amount of child support (up or down), the Family Court will issue a new order changing the amount of support.
How often can a child support order be modified?
A Petition for Modification can be filed at as often as necessary if there is a change of circumstances.
If the Family Court changes the child support amount, how far does it go back?
If the Family Court changes the child support amount, the new order generally only goes back to when the Petition for Modification was filed and served on the other side. This means that past due child support amounts can’t be changed. The Family Court can’t change the amount of a child support payment after that payment is due.
So if you are the parent making child support payments and your income decreases, you don’t want to wait a few months before filing your paperwork. You may end up owing a large amount of past due child support you can’t pay.
Even if you are the parent who is getting child support payments and your income decreases, don’t wait to file. You may end up getting an increased child support payment.
To ask the Family Court to look at your paperwork more quickly, you can file a Petition for Expedited Modification. Instructions for a Petition for Expedited Modification can be found here. A parent cannot use this petition if the decrease in income is because the parent voluntarily quit his or her job.