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You Can’t Modify Child Support Just Because It’s Been Three Years

MoneyThree Year Review

We often hear child support enforcement staff talk about a three-year review of child support.  We have even seen motions filed requesting a custodial parent’s “three-year review” of the noncustodial parent’s child support obligation.  In fact, it is even in the manual for the Department of Health and Human Services and it states that

“Federal Regulation 45 CFR 303.8 governs the review and adjustment process for child support orders. Under this regulation Child Support Services (CSS) is required to…Provide notice to parents every three (3) years of their right to request a review and, if appropriate, adjustment of the support order.”

What the federal regulation actually says is that the State must “Review and, if appropriate, adjust the order in accordance with the State’s guidelines established pursuant to section 467(a) of the Act if the amount of the child support award under the order differs from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the guidelines.”  And that’s the key — under North Carolina law, to modify a child support order the moving party must prove a substantial change in circumstances.

Substantial Change in Circumstances

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.7 sets out that “an order of a court of this State for support of a minor child may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party.”  The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines establish a presumption regarding the changed circumstances required for the court to have jurisdiction to modify a child support order.  It states;

“In a proceeding to modify the amount of child support payable under a child support order that was entered at least three years before the pending motion to modify was filed, a difference of 15% or more between the amount of child support payable under the existing order and the amount of child support resulting from application of the guidelines based on the parents’ current incomes and circumstances shall be presumed to constitute a substantial change of circumstances warranting modification of the existing child support order.”

So the moving party must show more than three years and more than a 15% difference in child support.

Modify Child Support in Less Than Three Years with a Substantial Change in Circumstances

A parent can modify child support earlier than three years with a substantial change in circumstances.  Such a change must be significantly more than 20-30%, a complete loss of job through no fault of the obligor, or some other significant change.

Dismiss the “Three-Year Review”

Our attorneys negotiated a dismissal of a three-year review today.  This occurred because the other parent could not show a substantial change in circumstances.  If we can help you with a child support issue, please contact us.