Divorce can change a person’s financial life in many ways. One way that often affects a person for a while after the divorce is finalized, is an order to pay child support or spousal support. An order for child support or spousal support can continue for years, even as a person’s finances change. When a court orders either form of support, it often considers a person’s income in determining the amount to be paid. What happens to these orders when a person’s income changes later on?
Modifying Spousal Support Orders
If a spouse who is ordered to pay maintenance retires, loses their job, or otherwise loses their source of income, they can petition a court to reevaluate the amount ordered in order to determine if it can be decreased. In filing a motion with the court, the petitioner has to show a substantial change in circumstances that would warrant the decrease.
Changes to the financial or social life of the person receiving spousal support can also constitute a substantial change in circumstance that can lead to a decrease in support payments, if not completely eliminate them. In some cases, if a person receiving support gets married or cohabitates with a person with whom they are in a romantic relationship, a court may reduce the amount of support ordered. If a person receiving support gets employed or has an increase in income, the person paying support may also use this as grounds to seek a modification.
Modifying Child Support Orders
Modification of child support orders is generally similar to modification of spousal support orders. Child support orders are based on a percentage of the income of the person ordered to make payments. The income considered for the paying parent is from all income sources with a few exclusions. If this income changes, positively or negatively, either parent can seek modification of an order to increase or decrease payments as necessary. Under Illinois law, a court may also deduct expenses related to actions that a parent incurred in an effort to increase income earning potential, for example student loan payments or business loan interest. In seeking modification of child support, a parent can ask the court to make the final order retroactive, in order to cover the period from the petition to the final decree.
When looking at modifications, a court is likely to look at the motives of a party who decreases their income, especially drastically. A court can seek to determine if any change in income was made to avoid paying ordered child or spousal support. If it seems likely that a person was fired due to their own conduct, or quit their job voluntarily, a court is not likely to order modification to reduce payments.
Because modification is available as a legal remedy, a person who is ordered to pay child or spousal support who becomes unable to pay should seek modification before refusing to pay at all. Getting behind on court ordered payments can lead to further legal problems if the other party seeks enforcement of the original order.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
If you would like to modify a child support or spousal support order based on changed financial circumstances, you need an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process. Contact our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys for a consultation and to learn how we can help you.