Court Discusses Standard for Modifying Child Support Obligations in New York

In many instances in which a couple with a child divorces, one spouse will be the primary income earner, while the other will be responsible for raising the child. Thus, it is not uncommon for a court to order one parent to pay child support to the other. Support obligations are not permanent, however, and can be modified under certain circumstances.  In a recent case, a New York court discussed the burden of proof imposed on a party who wishes to obtain a modification of a support obligation. If you receive or pay child support pursuant to a court order and want to seek a modification, you should meet with a New York child support attorney to discuss the evidence that you must produce to obtain a modification.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

The mother and the father divorced in 2014. The mother was granted sole custody of their only child, and the father was ordered to pay approximately $2,500.00 per month in child support. In 2018, the father sought a modification of his support obligation. In his petition, the father alleged that he was wrongfully terminated, resulting in a reduction of his income of over 15%, and that the mother’s income had increased by more than 15%. Following a hearing, the court denied the father’s petition. The father then appealed.

Proving That a Support Modification is Warranted

Under New York law, a party seeking a modification of a child support obligation must establish that there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants a modification. In assessing whether a change in a parent’s circumstances warrants a modification of a support obligation, the court will evaluate several factors, including the child’s needs, an increase in the cost of living, a loss of income or assets of either parent, and a significant improvement in the financial situation of either parent.

Furthermore, a court can modify a support order if it has been three years since the order was entered or adjusted, and either parent’s income has changed by 15% or more since that time. A reduction in income should not be weighed as a basis for a modification, however, if it is voluntary, and the party who suffered the reduction has not made sufficient attempts to gain employment commensurate with his or her ability.

In the subject case, the appellate court agreed that the father failed to show that his reduction in income was involuntary or that he made sufficient attempts to obtain a job commensurate with his skills or experience. The appellate court noted, however, that the trial court failed to account for the mother’s increase in income or the father’s loss of assets. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court should have ruled in favor of the father, and it remanded the case for further review.

Speak with an Experienced Child Support Attorney

If you wish to seek a modification of a child support obligation, it is in your best interest to speak with a child support attorney to discuss your case. Ksenia Rudyuk is a proficient New York family law attorney with the skills and experience needed to help you pursue a successful outcome. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to schedule a meeting.