Modifying your Virginia child support order sooner rather than later can save you a lot of time and money. If you are unable to pay the current child support amount, you will still owe the unpaid amount in arrears (unpaid, overdue debt). These arrears cannot be filed under bankruptcy and normally cannot be reduced retroactively. This is why it is important to act quickly when your circumstances change or when you learn that they will be changing.
Under the Virginia Code Section 20-108, the statute provides that either parent has the ability to request the court to modify a child support order when there is a significant change of circumstances. The statute lists 15 factors that the court must consider when determining child support. Some examples of material changes in circumstances would include a job change, unemployment, a change in household income, a medical disability, the child’s new needs, or other life changes. These changes in circumstances must have occurred after your existing child support order was entered by the court. A parent requesting a modification in child support payments because of a lack of ability to pay must ensure it is not due to his or her own voluntary act.
Remember to continue making child support payments required under the current child support order as best you can, something is better than nothing. The existing child support order will remain in effect until a new one is issued by the court. Failing to pay child support can lead to penalties and punishment, such as garnishments, wage assignments, payroll deduction, lien on real or personal property, attorneys’ fees, court costs, and even criminal sanctions. Either in the juvenile and domestic relations district court (Virginia Code Section 16.1-292(B)) or circuit court (Virginia Code Section 20-61), the court may confine an individual in jail up to 12 months.
Parents are allowed to reach an agreement outside of court with regard to modifying the child support terms but a judge still must sign off on it by approving the change. However, if you are unable to reach an agreement then you will need to file a motion with the court asking to modify your child support order and request a hearing date. Whether there is an agreement or one parent requesting a modification of child support, a new child support order needs to be issued by the appropriate court for changed child support requirements to take effect. This is when you should seek the services of an experienced family law attorney to adequately inform you of your rights and fight for you during the entire legal process. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to Contact Cravens & Noll, consultations are always free.