Once a judgment of dissolution of marriage is entered and a child support obligation is established, those who are ordered to pay child support, and those who are entitled to receive it, often wonder when, and under what circumstances, they can change the child support obligation. As the statute for determining the amount of child support is set to change on July 1, 2017, it is also a good time to talk about modifying the child support obligation.
The child support obligation is modifiable at any time upon the showing of a “substantial change in circumstances.”
The most common change in circumstances is a change in the salary of the person paying the child support, whether it is a raise in their salary, or they have lost their job. If the Judge determines that, at some point after the entry of the original judgment of dissolution, there has been such a substantial change in circumstances, the child support can be modified.
In order to change the child support obligation, one party must file a petition with the court seeking the change in the child support obligation and must provide notice of that petition to the other party. The timing of this petition becomes important. Illinois law provides that the child support obligation can only be modified as to installments which accrue after the petition to modify is filed, and notice is provided to the other party. This means that if a person receiving child support learns that the paying party has received a large raise in salary, but does not file the petition to increase the support the obligation for say… one year, they have forfeited that one year of increased child support. The sitting Judge will have no discretion to modify the child support retroactively.
The Judge can only modify the support as of the date the petition to modify is filed, and notice is provided to the other party.
This rule cuts both ways. If a party is paying child support, and loses their job or suffers a large decrease in salary, but waits for that same one-year period to file a petition to modify the child support obligation downward, the Judge will have no option in that situation either. The established child support amount will have to be paid by the paying party for that entire year, despite the fact that they have had a greatly reduced income.
If you are paying or receiving child support, and you believe there has been a substantial change in circumstances which can affect the payment of the support, you should talk to an experienced family law attorney right away to determine if a petition to modify is appropriate, and when it should be filed.
The failure to do so can have severe consequences on your financial situation.
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