Child support is based on the assumption that paying parents have enough income to support both themselves and their children. But what if parents who once could pay support experience a drastically changed economic situation? What if they are now struggling just to support themselves? Child support payments can be modified to reflect a parent’s changed income. The most common of these changes is job loss.

If a parent paying child support experiences a job loss, she can ask the court to reduce her support payments. Similarly, if the parent receiving support suffers a job loss he can request an increase in support. A court may lower or raise child support payments as circumstances require. Be aware that when changes are successfully made to a child-support agreement, these changes apply to future payments only. The spouse who received payments in the past will not be forced to return payments already received.

In addition, a modified ruling on child support is not set in stone. A parent who formerly received payments can challenge the validity of the other parent’s unemployment or underemployment status. A vocational examiner can assess the job skills of the party in question and thereby prove his or her ability to find a job and earn a certain level of income. If it can be proven that the spouse who paid child support is “employable,” the reduced payments may be called into question. The best way to ensure fairness in child support matters is to seek professional legal advice. Good advice can save a divorced parent thousands of dollars and relieve the stress of job loss.