It can be a struggle to keep up with child support payments under the best of times. After a job loss or another setback, it can be near impossible. Once a parent falls behind, the unpaid balance accumulates interest at a rapid rate, and it can turn into serious financial and legal trouble. Parents in this situation need help with a child support modification.
When deciding on child support orders, North Dakota courts base the dollar amount on the child’s needs and the paying parent’s ability to pay. Typically, the amount is set as a percentage of the paying parent’s income at the time of the order. Depending on the custody arrangement, the court may set a child support amount for each parent. In any case, the order amount does not automatically change when a parent’s income goes up or down. Instead, the North Dakota Child Support agency is supposed to review the order every 18 months and set the amount accordingly.
When a paying parent loses a job or otherwise experiences a drop in income at some point between the 18-month intervals, he or she should request a child support modification. This gives the court the opportunity to review the paying parent’s current income, calculate a new amount and issue a new order. The sooner the parent gets started on this, the better.
Parents can fill out child support modification forms themselves, but it can be important to have help from a family law attorney, especially if the parent is called for a hearing. A lawyer can advise clients on the best ways to proceed, and argue on their behalf when necessary.