Union Leader: KNOW THE LAW – Child Support Modification -01/2010

January 1, 2010

This question was answered by Margaret Kerouac of the McLane Law Firm

Q:  My employer recently reduced my salary by twenty-five percent because our company and industry are performing poorly.  Can I seek a reduction in my child support obligation and how would I do this?

A:  Yes.  Child support can be modified every three years or upon a “substantial change in circumstances.”  If it has been three years since your child support order was issued, then you are automatically entitled to a review and recalculation of your child support obligation.  If it has not been three years since your last child support calculation, under these facts you can request to modify your child support obligation on the basis of a substantial change of circumstances. 

Child support orders can be modified based upon a substantial change in circumstances to increase or decrease child support.  A substantial change in circumstances may be a disability, significant increase or decrease in income, or other matters that are out of the control of the paying parent which have a significant and ongoing impact on that parent’s income.  Your employer’s decision to reduce your compensation by one-quarter, so long as it was not at your request or due to performance issues, would likely constitute a substantial change in circumstances and justify a recalculation of child support.  Two key elements of this are that the income reduction was not within your control and that the reduction was significant (i.e. twenty-five percent).  A lesser reduction, for example a five percent reduction, would probably not be a basis for a child support recalculation, despite the fact that losing that income would impact your budget and household expenditures.  Likewise, a reduction based upon poor performance or caused by neglect of duties might not qualify as the basis for a modification. 

The amount of your child support obligation will be determined by the child support guidelines based upon your income, the number of children to which the order applies and certain other factors.  You can find the Child Support Calculator on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Support Services.  That website also provides the basic documents to assist you in requesting a modification of child support.  This information is for use in basic cases, where the only issue is the amount of the support order.  For more complex cases, where the parents may dispute what income should be considered for purposes of calculating child support, how to calculate child support on one time or irregular income, or whether a deviation from the child support guidelines is appropriate, use of the website calculator alone will not suffice and you should seek the assistance of an attorney.

Margaret R. Kerouac is an attorney in McLane’s Domestic Relations department.  She can be reached at (603) 628-1330 or margaret.kerouac@mclane.com.

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm
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