By: Nicole Makris, Attorney

Child support is intended to provide children with the standard of living that they would have enjoyed if their household had remained intact. Once the court issues a child support order, the order may only be modified if statutory criteria are met. The same rules apply to an order for college or post-secondary education expenses, which is in the nature of a child support order. Indiana Code § 31-16-8-1 includes the standards that must be met before a parent may request a modification of a child support order.

Substantial and Continuing Change of Circumstances

The first way that a child support order may be modified is if the parent requesting the modification is able to show that substantial and continuing changed circumstances have occurred that have made the current child support order unreasonable. Examples of these changes of circumstances are the emancipation of one of the children who are subject to a child support order, changes in employment and income of a parent, incarceration of a parent, or if an agreed change in the custodial arrangement between the parents has occurred.

Changes to Factors in Child Support Calculation  

The second way that a child support order may be modifiable is if an updated child support calculation would result in more than a 20% change from the child support order in effect, and if the child support order has been in place for at least twelve months before the petition for modification is filed. A more than 20% change in the child support amounts can come about through an increase or decrease in the income of a parent, or changes to the other factors considered in a child support calculation such as the number of children subject to the order, the cost of the children’s healthcare and/or work-related childcare expenses, or the number of overnights exercised by the non-custodial parent.

If a modification of child support is granted, the earliest date that the modification may be retroactive to is the date that the petition to modify was filed. The two exceptions to this rule are if the parents have agreed to and complied with a different method of payment which is in substantial compliance with the intention of the child support order, or if the parent who is paying child support assumes custody of the child so that a permanent change of custody occurs.

Child support modifications are very fact-sensitive. Consult with an experienced family law attorney regarding the details of your case.