I was divorced 3 years ago. The court set child support but my ex wants to reduce his payment. He had a good job when we were divorced but now he is an “entrepreneur”. Although some things did not pan out, he continues to live well. Is my ex entitled to reduce his child support?
This issue comes up a lot. Support modification cases are very fact-specific and frequently require an evidentiary hearing to resolve. Nevertheless, there are certain basic rules that apply. The party moving for a modification of child support has the burden of proving three fundamental prerequisites. First, there must be a substantial change in circumstances. Second, the change was not contemplated at the time of final judgment. Third, the change is ‘sufficient, material, involuntary, and permanent in nature. Finally, when the original child support amount is based on an agreement there is a heavier burden on the party seeking a downward modification.
In the case of child support (and alimony) payments do not fluctuate with business cycles. I have had cases where the timing of child support has been adjusted to accommodate significant seasonal fluctuations in income. Temporary reductions of income without a showing that the payor is using his or her best efforts to create income (through employment or otherwise), generally will not support a modification. Promotions from an hourly employee to management may be an exception to the rules but I leave that discussion for another day.
The fact that there is no visible change in his lifestyle may also important, particularly in the absence of a lifestyle change. The impacts of a modification can last for many years. Be sure to have an experienced family law attorney guide you through the process.