How can I reduce Child Support payments?

To reduce a child support payment in Washington, there are two ways to proceed. One is to submit a Petition to Modify Child Support and the other is to file a Motion for Adjustment of Child Support. Each one has particular conditions and whether to file one or the other depends considerably on the circumstances.

Petition to Modify Child Support Order: You can file a Petition to Modify Child Support Order a year after the initial child support order. A petition can be filed if the payments cause severe financial hardship to you, the child turned 18 but hasn’t completed high school, or if there has been a drastic alteration in your economic circumstances.

Motion for Adjustment of Child Support: This is considered an easier and quicker way. It requires less paperwork and the matter at hand is usually settled in a single hearing. However, not everyone qualifies for this procedure. You can only file this motion after two years of the initial order and either your or your ex-partner’s income has changed. Or, if it’s been one year and the child became twelve and altered the age category.

When can the order of child support be reduced?

In simple words, if it’s been less than one year since the order was modified or issued, the requesting parent must prove a considerable reduction in the income to court. For example, a major decrease in income, or the loss of a job.

However, the court will examine applications based on decreased income very carefully. If a court discovers that the paying party has voluntarily or intentionally become underemployed or unemployed to avoid child support, the court may assign child support amount to that parent based on what they were or could be making. So, it’s not a good decision to reduce your work hours or quit a job in order to evade support payments.

Evidence of changes in circumstances

Court has the power to change an existing order and also has the authority to set an amount lower than the state guidelines suggest. However, the court requires evidence of changed circumstances: decreased earnings, increased expenses, etc. Before filing a petition with the court, you should collect the following:

  • evidence of self-employed income or recent pay stubs.
  • evidence that your familial responsibilities have changed, e.g., the birth of another child.
  • medical records, in case  you have become disabled.

Can child support payments be reduced without showing a major change in circumstances?

Once the court order of child support payment has been in place for at least one year, the parent asking a reduction in support payment does not have to prove a major change in circumstances if:

  • the child is no longer in the age category on which the current support amount was based, ;
  • the order works a severe economic hardship on paying parent, or
  • a child has finished high school and there is a finding that there is no need to extend support.

How do I start a child support reduction action?

You can start an action to reduce child support payments by filing a petition for change and the necessary child support worksheets. The Washington State Office of the Administrator for the Court’s website provides various state court forms by category, including a “Child Support Modification” form. You will need to pay a fee and file your paperwork at your local court clerk’s office. 

I have filed my support modification petition. What is next?

After filing a modification petition you need to “serve” (personally delivery) a summons, a copy of the petition and the worksheets on your child’s other parent. After this, you will require to file proof of service with the court. For serving the other party accurately, it’s helpful to hire a professional process server. You can get qualified process servers in your local telephone directory or online.

When must the other parent reply?

The responding parent’s reply and worksheets must be served to you or your lawyer and then filed with the court within 20 days after serving the petition, or 60 days if it is served in any other state.

Hearing scheduled

After the other party has filed a response, either party may schedule a hearing. You should check with the court administrator in your county to make sure you set the hearing correctly.

The last words

Support payments are usually fixed by annual income. Thus, if your job was influenced by a matter such as a failing of economy, then you may be worthy to petition the court to revise the order to meet your new annual income. 

You may also be able to reduce your child support amounts through a mutual agreement with your ex-spouse. The mutual agreement should be signed and in writing by both parties. A court hearing becomes unnecessary if you come to a mutual agreement. However, both parents are needed to file an uncontested motion in order to reduce the child support order.

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