New York Court Discusses Grounds that Warrant a Support Order Modification

New York law demands that parents support their children financially, and in many shared custody cases, the courts will order one parent to pay the other child support, subject to the terms of a support order. The law also recognizes that circumstances can change over time and allows parties to seek modifications of support orders. The courts will only grant such requests if the moving party offers sufficient evidence demonstrating an amendment is warranted, though, as discussed in a recent New York ruling. If you have questions about child support, it is advisable to speak with a New York child support lawyer.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the mother and the father, who were divorced, shared joint custody of their minor child, born in 2004. In March 2020, the father filed a request for a modification of the support order due to termination of his employment. Subsequently, in September 2021, both parties agreed to reduce the father’s child support obligations. In May 2022, after being laid off from another job, the father sought modification of the September 2021 order, citing a “substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances.” He requested suspension of his support payments until he found new employment and that the mother be required to pay him child support. The father amended his petition in July 2022 to include a claim that a “temporary medical emergency” prevented him from working for an extended period.

Allegedly, the Support Magistrate dismissed the petitions, concluding that the father had not demonstrated sufficient efforts to obtain employment or provided competent medical evidence to prove his inability to work. The father subsequently objected to this decision, arguing that the Support Magistrate did not adequately consider his involuntary job loss, job-seeking efforts, and the impact of his injury on his ability to work. The trial court denied these objections, and the father appealed.

Changes in Circumstances Sufficient to Warrant a Support Order Modification

On appeal, the court examined whether the father met the legal standards for modifying a child support order under New York law, which requires a showing of a substantial change in circumstances or a 15% change in either party’s gross income since the order was entered or last modified.

The court emphasized that the parent seeking modification must prove that the decrease in income was not their fault and that they made diligent efforts to find re-employment suitable to their skills. In this case, the father’s petitions for modification were based on the September 2021 stipulated order, where he was already unemployed and receiving unemployment benefits.

Therefore, the court found that his subsequent job loss did not constitute a change in circumstances since his employment status remained the same as at the time of the stipulated order.

Furthermore, the court found that the father failed to provide definitive evidence of a 15% decrease in income and noted that even if the father’s job loss and reduced income justified a modification, he did not present sufficient evidence of diligent job-seeking efforts. The father also failed to demonstrate that he earnestly pursued suitable employment.

Additionally, regarding the father’s injury claim, the court found that the brief note from his medical provider did not establish that the injury prevented him from working or that his limitation to remote work was medically necessary. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Talk to a Dedicated New York Child Support Attorney

While all parents have an obligation to support their children financially, how that duty is enforced by the courts can vary depending on the circumstances. If you need assistance with a child support dispute, it is advisable to talk to an attorney regarding your options. Ksenia Rudyuk is a dedicated New York child support attorney who can inform you of your rights and aid you in pursuing a favorable outcome. You can contact Ms. Rudyuk by callingĀ 212-706-2001 or by using our online form to arrange a meeting.

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