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How big a change can prompt a child support modification?

Regular readers of our blog, especially those interested in the issue of child support, will acknowledge that we have attempted to give the matter due attention. Back in November and December we wrote several posts covering how support is determined, ways support orders can be changed and consequences parents may face if obligations aren't met.

This is an area that every state government, including Pennsylvania's, works hard on. It represents one of those issues upon which everyone seems to be able to agree. If a child's welfare is at stake, those responsible for the child's well-being are expected to fulfill their duty.

The circumstances under which support orders may be changed vary. But one of the critical elements that might prompt a request is described in the law as a "material and substantial change in circumstances." Of course that raises the question, what counts as a substantial change?

There many answers, but examples would include a job change that requires a move of some major distance, a big boost or loss of income, the development of a disability or some other life-changing event. Perhaps the easiest way to approach the question is to ask whether the change is such that the existing child support arrangement is no longer viable.

If you think a change is called for, here are some tips for seeking a modification.

  • Don't hesitate. State law requires that any change be communicated within seven days of its taking place. If you know a change is coming, you should consider taking action before it happens.
  • Get informed. It's always good to know your rights and obligations. An experienced attorney can provide the necessary guidance.
  • Seek agreement from the other parent. The discussions might be difficult, but it may be possible to come to an agreement without having to incur the expense of going to court.
  • Do your best to meet the current obligation. Until a new order is in place the existing order rules. Make an honest effort to pay what you can.
  • Register the change correctly. The paperwork should be filed with the same court that issued the original order. Proper documentation should also be served to the other parent.

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