If A Change To Parenting Time Is Considered, Does That Mean The Child Support Could Also Be Altered In Conjunction With That Change Or Is That A Separate Petition?
When parents file motions to modify parenting time, they normally reference child support. Most people want the whole situation reviewed, not just part of it. For instance, Kentucky just signed a new child support law that looks at the number of overnights that a child spends with a parent. Most states, if not there already, have moved to a formula that takes into account the actual amount of time a parent spends with their child, which is relevant for purposes of determining child support. For example, if a dad at the time of the divorce was only seeing their child every other weekend, that would be 52 overnights a year. That gets plugged in a child support calculator that gives a number after factoring in income levels, number of overnights and other data. And so, if the dad is now spending double that amount of time with their child, a lower amount of child support will be suggested. The reason is that the dad is providing more food and shelter to the child as they are spending more time together.
If the parents know what they’re doing and have competent counsel, they will know to keep an eye on the child support and raise that issue when asking for a change in parenting time. Most, if not all, states will eventually need to know what the parenting schedule is before they determine child support. Therefore, anytime you have a change in parenting time, that can cause a corresponding change to child support.
What Is Considered A Material And Substantial Change In Child Custody Or Support Need?
In regard to child support, most states have a percentage-based guideline to determine if a change in circumstances is substantial enough to modify the child support order. In Kentucky, the percentage is 15%. Using a simple example: if somebody was ordered to pay a $1,000 a month, the court will consider the substantial change if the new amount is less than $850 or over $1,150 when it’s calculated. You’re looking for a 15% change in the amount that is being paid, not in the change of income. That’s where a lot of people get confused. They think that if their income goes down by 15%, then it’s a substantial change. However, it has to be the amount that is being paid, not the income, amount of health insurance, or any other factor that goes into determining child support.
On the child custody side, you’re looking for the time limit. It’s harder to convince a court that any material change has occurred unless two years have passed since the prior order. As a result, some states put time limits. The time limit prevents people from coming back and relitigating things to try to get another bite of the apple. However, there are exceptions if it’s an emergency. If Child Protective Services (CPS) is involved, you can get things changed. It’s just a harder standard if the request for a modification takes place shortly after the order’s been entered.
Again, if a parent and child’s relationship has deteriorated because the parent is using drugs or has fallen into a state of depression, and it’s not safe for the child to be with that parent anymore, it’s usually easier to get the custody order modified. The court will look at the facts and circumstances, such as the child’s needs and wants, the parents’ needs and wants, the child’s schooling, their community, etc. The possibilities are limitless on the number of factors to consider. For the most, the change has to be something that occurs a good period of time after the decree. Otherwise, it has to be something that is seriously endangering the child or one of the parents in order for the court to see it as a material change.
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