Under What Circumstances Will a Court Modify a Child Support Agreement?

In a recent post, we discussed New York child support agreements and how the parties to a divorce may be able to agree to the payment and amount of child support Outsidequarrelcouple-300x200rather than have the court make that determination. We also discussed a situation in which the court was likely to set aside a child support agreement. This week, we will take a more in-depth look into how courts view New York child support agreements.

As a general matter, a properly drafted New York child support agreement will remain enforceable over time. However, in reality, circumstances and relationships change, and it is not uncommon for either party to an agreement to ask the court to modify or set aside the agreement if they believe that it is no longer fair to them or to the children subject to the agreement.

The default law (for support orders made nowadays), unless people opt out of them is that either party to a  child support order may seek to modify it:  every three years; if income changes by 15% or more; or there has otherwise been a substantial change of circumstances.  The parties to a properly drafted and executed written stipulation may opt of those first two reasons.  If people have opted out of the default reasons to modify the agreement or the order predated the 2010 child support law, then the Courts will only grant a party’s request for an upward modification (meaning an increase in the child support obligation) if the requesting party can establish one of three circumstances:

  • When it appears that the needs of the child are not being met;
  • There has been an unanticipated change in circumstances, as well as a showing by the moving party that there is a need for modification; or
  • The agreement was unfair or inequitable when it was made.

A good illustration of a situation where a court refuses to modify a New York child support agreement is in the case, D.C. v. C.C..

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the Mother and Father were divorced and included a child support agreement in the settlement agreement. The child support agreement provided that Father would pay $1,750 per month, in addition to covering other specifically mentioned expenses. At the time the agreement was made, the couple’s child was two years old.

About 15 years later, Mother filed for a modification in Husband’s child support obligations. Mother argued that “it goes without saying” that the child’s needs have increased. Mother explained that the child had her own car, and that her “lifestyle and expenses have increased measurably” since the time the agreement was made.

The court rejected Mother’s request, noting that she failed to establish any of the three required circumstances that justify an upward modification of child support obligations. The court noted that Mother provided no evidence suggesting that the needs of the child were not being met, nor did she present any evidence that there was the need for an adjustment. The court explained that the plaintiff’s argument that the needs of the child increased merely due to her getting older was incorrect, and that some of the increase in expenses should have been anticipated at the time the agreement was signed.

Are You Contemplating an Increase in Child Support Obligations?

If you are thinking about requesting an upward modification of a New York child support order, or are facing an increase in child support obligations, contact us at the Law and Mediation Offices of Darren M. Shapiro. I am a dedicated Long Island family law attorney, divorce lawyer, and divorce mediator.  I have extensive experience handling all aspects of New York family law, including child support agreements and modification requests. To learn how we can help you with your situation, call 516-333-6555 to schedule an initial consultation today.  Up to the first half hour is free.

See Other Blog Posts:

What Sort of Issues Does a Good New York Prenuptial Agreement Cover?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, December 29, 2018

What’s the Difference Between Divorce Mediators and Review Attorneys?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, December 19, 2018