Modification of Child Support

English: MANAMA, Bahrain (Feb. 10, 2010) Instr...

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Once child support is established, the terms are normally placed in an agreement which is then used to facilitate your divorce.  This separation agreement which is normally incorporated but not merged into a judgment of divorce is a contractual obligation on the parties.  Thus, when entering into such an agreement, you must make sure that the terms are something that you can live with.  It is assumed, upon execution of this separation agreement that you have anticipated and have adequately provided for the child’s welfare.  If you later on decide that you want to change the terms of the agreement, the Courts will first look to the agreement and will only deviate from the terms of the agreement if the needs of the child are not being met.

Generally speaking, child support will not be changed unless there has been an unforeseen change in circumstances and a concomitant showing of need. What qualifies as an unforeseen change in circumstance?  That will be decided on a case by case basis.  The one change in circumstance which never works is when the paying spouse intentionally quits their job and then runs into Court claiming that they can no longer afford to pay child support.  If you have a child support obligation and you purposefully or intentionally quit your job, you will still be liable for child support at the amount in which you agreed in your divorce.

What if you lose your job due to no fault of you own.  That’s where the facts and circumstances of your matter come into play. Lets suppose you lose your job because the factory you were working at closed down.  Clearly, not foreseen nor anticipated.  You are not allowed to sit home and not work.  You are not allowed to claim you cannot pay for child support because you lost your job. It is incumbent on you to find another job.  Of course you can petition the Court to modify your child support, but you have to show the Court that you are actively searching for a job.  We advise our clients to immediately start looking for a job.  Go on interviews, attend job fairs do anything that can show that you are actively looking for work.  If you can show the Court that due to no fault of your own, you have lost your job but you are doing everything you can to obtain new employment, you maybe be able to get a modification of child support.

What if after your search, you immediately find a new job but it is substantially less than what you were making?  Again, it depends on the facts of your case.  If you were a doctor, and you took a job as a waiter, the Court will not look kindly to that as you are under employed. What if you were a waiter, and you obtained a job as a waiter in another restaurant.  Depends.  Were you a waiter and Ruth’s Chris and now you are at a local diner?  Maybe you’re underemployed, maybe you’re not.  Did you take this job pending other interviews?  Again, it all depends on your facts and circumstances and what you are doing to obtain employment.

If you are the one receiving child support and your spouse has stopped paying, you want to look into why.  If your spouse intentionally quit their job, then move for contempt.  The best interests of your child dictates that your spouse should not be allowed to quit a job to avoid child support.  What if the loss of employment was clearly not your spouse’s fault?   The best thing would probably agree to a temporary reduction in child support, pending new employment. If there is a legitimate change in circumstance, you cannot get money from a source that doesn’t exist. A temporary adjustment will give your spouse time to get a new job and shows that you are reasonable to the Court should you go that far.  Second, if you have to go to court, while you have tools to compel enforcement of child support orders, if there is a legitimate change in circumstance, how will spending time in family court help you get child support?  It won’t.  Thus, you have to know the reasons for the lack of support.  If there are valid reasons, we recommend working with your ex-spouse.  If there are no valid reasons, then Court may be your only solution.

If you need to modify your child support, or if you are being asked to modify child support obligations, contact us immediately so we can prepare the best case possible based on your unique set of circumstances.

Person In Need Of Supervision


A person in need of supervision, or PINS, covers youthful misbehavior which does not amount to a crime. The Family Court Act §712 defines PINS as a male less than sixteen years of age and a female less than eighteen years of age who does not attend school in accordance with the provisions of part one of article sixty-five of the education law or who is incorrigible, ungovernable or habitually disobedient and beyond the lawful control of parent or other lawful authority or who violates the provisions of section 221.05 of the penal law. So what does this mean? Truancy or any other acts which parents and/or local authority are unable to control. Important requirement under PINS is that the acts be habitual. A single act of truancy, incorrigibility or disobedience does not suffice. Essentially a significant pattern must be present before a PINS case may be made. Of course, with most things, there is an exception. Acts involving marijuana need not be habitual and one act will be enough to make out a case for PINS.

A PINS case is formally originated by filing a petition in the Family Court which possesses exclusive original jurisdiction over PINS matters. There is a long list which can be found in the Family Court Act §733 of who can file or initiate a PINS petition. Examples of people authorized to file such a petition include a police officer, a peace officer, a parent or guardian or any person who has suffered injury as a result of the child’s activity. In reality, the overwhelming majority of PINS cases are filed by parents. Before a PINS case can be filed, it must first be referred to probation services. At probation services, a determination will be held to ascertain whether there are treatment programs which the child in question may be eligible. Probation services has 90 days or 180 days with leave of the Court, to assess and enroll a child in specific services. If these services fail, a statement must be filed along with the PINS petition informing the Court of what if any services were provided and the reason for failure. In the event that probation services fail to act within the allotted time frame, then you are allowed to file your PINS petition.

There are specific elements which must be pled in the petition. Specifically, the petition must show that the child in question meets the age requirements as mentioned above. Second, the child in question is in need of services. In addition, the child, and/or their guardian must be notified no less than 24 hours before the initial hearing. Once the petition is filed, upon the child’s first appearance, a law guardian will be appointed. Of importance is that the Court, in its discretion can order the release or detention of the child pending a hearing on the issues.

LEARNING POINT: PINS is a detailed and complicated process for children in need of services. Before filing a petition seek our assistance in preparing the petition and preparing the case. If the petition or case is not properly prepared, there will be a delay in providing the child in question with the services they may need.