Child support can be one of the most emotionally challenging issues in a divorce. No one wants to revisit this issue, but if the financial circumstances of one or both spouses change after the divorce, it may become necessary. Fortunately, Utah law provides two methods of changing the amount of child support after a divorce. One method is called a Motion to Adjust Child Support. The other is called a Petition to Modify Child Support. Despite the similarity in names, the procedures have significant differences.
Motion to Adjust Child Support
A Motion to Adjust Child Support cannot be filed until three years have elapsed since the finalization of the divorce. The following requirements also need to be met:
- The difference between the support amount specified by the state guidelines and the support amount ordered in the decree exceeds 10 percent;
- The difference is not temporary; and
- The proposed child support amount in the motion is consistent with Utah guidelines.
The court must make its order on the motion to ensure that the best interests of the child are served by the order.
Petition to Modify Child Support
If a change in child support amount is sought before the three-year period has elapsed, the moving party must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances of one or both parties. A substantial change in circumstances may include:
- Material changes in custody;
- Material changes in the relative wealth or assets of the parties;
- Material changes of 30 percent or more in the income of a parent;
- Material changes in the employment potential and ability of a parent to earn;
- Material changes in the medical needs of the child; or
- Material changes in the legal responsibilities of either parent to support other person(s).
In ruling on a Petition to Modify, the court must again give highest priority to the best interests of the child.
Handling child support issues
Modifying an existing order for child support can be a complex undertaking, and the process could involve one or more court appearances. If a parent wants to adjust or modify child support, a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney can provide valuable guidance on the type and amount of evidence required to move forward.