Court Discusses Child Support Modifications Under New York Law

While child support is meant to provide financial means to care for a child whose parents do not live together, it nonetheless must be fair and reasonable. As such, if the party that is paying or receiving support experiences an event or life change that affects his or her finances, it may be grounds for the modification of a support award. In a recent child support case in New York, the court discussed when a modification of a child support obligation is warranted and what the party seeking the modification must prove. If you or your co-parent are obligated to pay child support, and either of you experienced a change in circumstances, you should speak to an experienced New York child support attorney to assess your rights.

Factual History

It is reported that the mother and father married in 2002 and had a child in 2003. They entered into a separation agreement in 2014 that, in part, imposed a child support obligation on the father. The agreement was modified in 2015, and both the agreement and the addendum were incorporated into the judgment of divorce the court issued later that year.

Allegedly, in 2017, three separate actions related to child support were filed by the parties. Specifically, the father filed a request for a downward modification of his support obligation, the mother filed a pleading regarding the father’s failure to comply with his support obligation, and a second pleading asking the court to hold him in willful contempt for failing to pay. On each of the pleadings, the court found in favor of the mother. The father then appealed, arguing the court erred in denying his request for a downward modification.

Proving a Child Support Modification is Warranted

Under the relevant statute, a court may modify a support obligation if the party seeking the change demonstrates a substantial change in circumstances, as well as the passage of at least three years since the support order or any prior modifications were entered, or a change in gross income by 15% or more.

In the subject case, the parties’ agreement stated that the last two factors in determining whether a modification should be granted did not apply. Thus, the father was required to show a substantial change in circumstances. In determining whether a party has met this burden, a court must weigh several factors, including the child’s needs, the increase in the cost of living, and a loss of income or assets by a parent or a significant improvement in any party’s standard of living.

When a loss of employment is the basis for seeking a modification, the party must show that his or her employment ended for reasons other than his or her fault and that diligent attempts have been made to secure new employment.  Here, the court found that while the father lost his job, it was because he resigned and that the father failed to show he attempted to secure new employment. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Capable New York Attorney

Child support obligations may be effective for several years, and therefore it is not unlikely for circumstances that require a modification to arise. If you or the co-parent of your child wish to modify a child support obligation, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney. Ksenia Rudyuk is an experienced New York child support attorney who will advocate aggressively on your behalf to help you strive for the best legal result available in your case. You can reach Rudyuk Law Firm at 212-706-2001 or via the form online to set up a meeting.

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