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Modifying an Existing Child Support Order - Jonathan M. Stanley


It can be very confusing to know when and why you are able to modify an existing child support order. Many people find that their circumstances have changed since the original child support order was put in place and now they are struggling to make ends meet. They may even find that they are not able to pay the full amount each month and they will start to develop a balance (or arrears) owed to the agency. This article will try to help you understand when it is appropriate to seek a modification of your child support order so you do not end up violating the court order and facing potentially serious consequences.

Parties can request that the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) will review a child support order if it has been 36 months since the order was put into place or since the last review was performed. If a review is requested, the CSEA will contact the parties within 15 days of the request. The Parties will then have 45 days to provide requested information to the CSEA. These modifications can then take several months to take effect even once all the information has been returned.

Sometimes Parties find themselves in a situation where a modification is warranted but 36 months has not elapsed. These situations include:

  • Extended Unemployment;

  • Major increase or decrease in income of the parties;

  • Major increase in the cost of health insurance or child care;

  • A party beginning active duty with the military;

  • A permanent disability;

  • Incarceration.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, you should contact the CSEA immediately to find out if a modification is possible.

In both of the above listed situations, the CSEA is only able to consider the financial situations of either of the Parties. However, a Court is able to consider many other factors when determining whether a child support order should be modified or “deviated”. These factors are contained in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 3119.23. If these factors are applicable to your case, you will need to file Motion to Modify Child Support with the Court rather than simply requesting a modification from the CSEA.

Regardless of your situation, if you believe that your child support order should be modified, the worst think you can do is nothing. Modifications are rarely retroactive and people can develop significant arrearages owed to the CSEA. If your arrears become too high, the agency can pursue enforcement methods up to and including jail time. Additionally, child support modifications are never handshake deals. Even if you and your former partner agree to a change in child support in writing, that change is not effective the order is modified by either the CSEA or the Court.

If you believe that your current child support order should be modified, an experienced domestic relations attorney can help you understand your options. Please contact our office if you would like to set up a free consultation.

- Jonathan M. Stanley, Esq.