District of Columbia Petition to Modify Child Support
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Introduction of Modification of Child Support in the District of Columbia
Modifications to child support will not happen automatically. One of the parents must request the change by a formal motion to the court. The court that makes the original child support award has the authority to modify the order if conditions change. Either parent may request the court to change the order throughout the time the child is under 18.
You can seek to change the amount of child support ordered by a
court if you think it is incorrect. For example, the income of
either parent may have changed, you may have lost your job or become
disabled, or you may become incarcerated and unable to pay.
There are two ways you can try to change a child support order.
Once every three years, either parent has the right to request the
child support enforcement office to conduct a review of the
child support order for possible modification. If you make your
request for a review and modification, you should put your request
in writing and be careful to keep a copy for yourself as proof that
you made the request. You should explain why you are requesting the
review, sign and date it, and include your child support case number
and other identifying information on the request.
Either parent can also, at any time, file a motion to modify an
existing child support order. You should file the motion in the
court which issued the child support order.
To be successful in getting a child support order changed, you must show that a "material change in circumstances" has occurred since the most recent order was signed. Examples of changes can include such things as losing your job, having your income reduced, becoming disabled, and becoming incarcerated.
When can child support orders be changed?
Child support orders cannot be changed on a whim or because a court thinks that "it is time." It must be based on evidence proving that there is good reason to make the change. This usually requires that a person who wants to make the change show a changed circumstance. You must show that the facts that existed when the last order was entered have changed. (In the many years a child support order is in place, the parent's circumstances may change many times.) For example, in DC, if one parent's income has changed (either gone up or down) by at least 35%, this is considered a big enough change to require a change in the support order. You can request a modification for a lesser change in income, but will not necessarily be guaranteed a change in the support order.
What circumstances might require a
change in support?
Many different scenarios can create changed circumstances. For example, if the paying parent has had a large increase in income, the court can order the child support increased. Or, if the child's needs grow, such as if the child becomes ill or disabled, the amount of support can be ordered raised. Sometimes the mere passage of time creates the changed circumstances. For example, as a child grows older, it becomes more expensive to buy clothes, food and other necessities. These increased expenses can be enough to justify a raise in the support order.
Support can also be reduced if you can show why this would be fair. For example, support payments may be reduced if the custodial parent inherits money, gets a large raise or otherwise has an increased ability to support the children. Or, if the paying parent loses his or her job, the court can be asked to reduce support during the period of unemployment.