Father with calculatorThis is the next post in our series on requesting a child support modification in Virginia. The last article discussed when one is eligible to request a child support reduction. It is important to understand that one cannot ask for a modification simply because they want it. The court will only entertain such a request if it has been a material change in circumstances since the previous order was entered. An experienced family law attorney can help you to understand whether you are eligible for a modification. In this article we will discuss why a parent should immediately request a modification if their income has declined. If you need assistance then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.

It is important to understand that an obligation to pay child support is just like any other court order. This means that a failure to follow the child support order can result in one being found in contempt of court. The penalties for contempt may include fines, incarceration, having to pay the opposing party’s legal fees, and more. Also, falling behind on one’s child support can mean the suspension of a driver’s license as well as the loss of other privileges. A court’s order is in effect and enforceable until it is changed. This means that a parent is ordered to pay their child support amount even if the loss of a job, or other reduction in income, makes it impossible to do so. This is why it is vital for a parent to gain a change of their order as soon as possible if their income has gone down.

Many parents make the mistake of engaging in “self help” after they have seen their income decrease. This is a situation where a paying parent simply starts paying an amount that “they can afford” as opposed to the amount that has been ordered by the court. These parents do so without ever gaining a modification of their child support order. The problem, however, is that this can be seen as an act of contempt (as explained above). Instead, it is better for a parent to immediately file for a modification. Typically, courts will apply the modification retroactively to the date at which the request was filed. Following this approach can help a parent, who is having financial difficulty, to avoid a contempt hearing. How the court will rule in any given situation will depend on the specific facts of the case. It is best to discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action.

Contact our office today to speak with a child support lawyer.