Renegotiating Child Support after a Divorce

Parents are required by law to support their children until they become adults. In the event of a divorce, state courts calculate a financial child support obligation for one parent (usually the non-custodial parent) based on what they consider to be fair to both parents and in the child’s best interest.

But financial situations change, and if the changes are significant enough, the court may agree to modify the terms of a child support order. Maybe your ex started a new job that brings in more money. Maybe you suffered a health setback and cannot return to work. What could happen to your child support obligation in situations like these?

Read: Is There an Official Child Support Calculator?

Modifying a child support order

If your financial situation has changed, you can seek a modification to your child support order. 

Judges typically don’t like to modify child support without good cause. The court will want to see a significant change in your financial circumstances – a change that was unforeseen at the time of the original order and looks to be permanent. Sometimes, a judge will agree to temporary child support changes if someone has lost a job or been hospitalized.

How often can you modify child support in your state?

Theoretically, there’s no limit to how often you can request a change to your child support amount. Every state has its own court system and process for changing a child support order. Some states require a waiting period between modification requests. Your support order may even have a cost of living adjustment clause that allows your child support to increase or decrease with the annual cost of living index.

Child support modification requires proof of a significant change in your financial picture. As such, modifications typically happen infrequently. 

How to ask for more child support

If you need more child support from your ex, it’s ideal if you can negotiate any changes with them directly. If you can approach your ex honestly about your financial need, you may be able to find an agreement that works for both of you while protecting your children.

Keep in mind, however, that support modification is only official through a court order, even if you and your ex agree. A judge must approve any change to the original child support order terms. 

If negotiation isn’t possible, you could file a petition with the court requesting a modification in your child support order. Be prepared: The burden of proving a permanent change of circumstances to the court will be yours if you are the petitioner. 

What might affect child support terms?

When judges make child support decisions, they’re guided by state laws that mandate adequate support to cover a child’s needs. These needs include food, clothing, shelter, health, education, transportation, and other essentials.

Each state uses its own calculation to determine basic child support. From there, other things may be factored into the amount of monthly child support that will be ordered, including the following:

  • The income of each parent, including bonuses, commissions, and other income
  • Which parent is the custodial parent
  • Any additional support obligations of either parent
  • Reasonable childcare costs
  • Reasonable health insurance and healthcare costs
  • Unusual necessary expenses
  • Other educational expenses the child may require
  • How parents share their parenting time


FAQ about changing child support

How do I fight an increase in child support?

Your ex may be asking for a modification to increase the amount of child support you pay. And maybe you can’t afford it. 

In this case, it's critical to come to the hearing equipped with evidence. You will need to show how your money is budgeted for your existing child support order as well as your other obligations. You will also need to prove your inability to pay more. 

The court will consider why your ex is asking for higher child support payments, your child’s needs, and each adult’s financial situation. The judge will weigh all factors in order to be as fair as possible to both parents while also serving the child’s best interests.

What factors could reduce the amount of child support I have to pay?

The only way you can reduce your child support is to prove an unexpected and substantial change in your financial situation which is unlikely to change. You can petition the court to request a modification of the child support order based on this information.

How does child support end?

Your child support order will set out the terms for when child support ends. In most cases, both parents are responsible for the support of their children until they are at least 18 years old and sometimes longer, depending on special needs or continuing payment toward a college education. 

There are some circumstances in which you may request a termination of your child support obligations. These include the termination of your parental rights, the marriage of your child, and your incapacitation and inability to earn money. Or, you and your ex may agree that support is no longer necessary. In this case, you could jointly petition the court to terminate your support obligation.

Divorced parents can ask for support modifications for many reasons. But whatever the reason, it is ultimately up to the court to decide whether a change of support is warranted. 

You may need a little help working out issues with your ex. If this sounds like you, consider working on a resolution with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party trained in conflict resolution who can help you negotiate an agreement that works for both of you before you petition the court for a support modification.

If you have questions about child support modifications or other divorce matters, let the professionals at Hello Divorce help. Schedule a free 15-minute call with us to see how we may be able to help you navigate your divorce or post-divorce life. 


Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.