Many North Carolinians view the entry of a final judgment and decree in a divorce proceeding as the last step in a long and painful march. They believe that all of the travails of getting divorced are behind them. Unfortunately, life does not move in such straight lines.
After a divorce becomes final, one spouse may decide to move to another state to accept a better job or because of a transfer offered by their current employer. In such cases, the custodial parent may need a modification of the original order for child support. How is such a change accomplished? The answer is bringing a motion for modification before the court that had jurisdiction over the divorce.
Convincing the judge to change the order
North Carolina statutes plainly state that a previous order for child support may be modified if the ex-spouse who wants the change can demonstrate a “substantial change” in circumstances that justify the requested modification. This requirement is essential. A divorced spouse cannot ask the court to modify an order for child support merely to re-litigate the factual issues that were presented to the court in the divorce proceeding.
The party seeking the modification must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that was not before the court when it issued its original child support was ordered. A difference of 15% between the amount of child support payable under the initial order and the amount of child support payable pursuant to the requested modifications is presumed to constitute a substantial change of circumstances warranting an amendment of the existing child support order.
Above all other factors, the court must make its decision based on what outcome will best serve the best interests of the child (or children). Other factors may include the child’s current living situation compared with the situation if the order is modified. The court must consider each parent’s gross income and living expenses.
The court may also consider the child’s healthcare needs, such as medical and dental care. If a motion to amend a child support order is filed with the court, both parents have an obligation to complete disclosure forms regarding their incomes and expenses.
Advice from a divorce attorney
Any divorced parent who is considering seeking a modification of an existing order for child support may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for an opinion on the likelihood of the success of such a motion.