Should I hire an attorney to help me lower the payment amount?
A popular question we are commonly asked involves child support payments: “If I can’t afford the monthly child support payments, what are my options?”
This article’s purpose is to address changes in the support amount and how important it is for you to consult an attorney to assist you in the support modification process. Now you may wonder how much this process costs, especially if you hire an attorney.
While hiring an attorney could be expensive, it is important to consider the amount of money an attorney could save you by convincing a court to modify your monthly support payments. The fear of paying for an attorney is usually always outweighed by the amount an attorney can save you over the course of many years of lowered child support payments.
Some basic rules in changing child support payment amounts are covered in Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, in that:
“Support may be modified as to installments accruing subsequent to due notice by the moving party of the filing of the motion for modification.” 750 ILCS 5/510
So what does this mean? It simply means that one’s child support obligation can be changed after a petition to change child support, called “A Petition to Modify Support,” is filed AND proper notice is given to the ex-spouse or recipient of support.
Failure to follow the requirements of this law can have devastating effects on those obligated to pay child support but who are no longer able to pay their original court ordered amount due to a decrease in pay or change in their employment. Those who are making less money, or no money at all, are still obligated to pay the original amount of court ordered support if they fail to correctly file a request for modification in child support.
John is ordered to pay Susan $100 per week in child support beginning January 1, 2012. John is a responsible father who is always current on his support until April 1, 2013, when the factory he works at shuts down and he is laid off. John quickly obtains part-time employment but only earns a fraction of what he once earned. John does what he can but is only able to pay $75 per week in child support which is over 50% of his income but less than $100 he was ordered to pay. Even though John is paying far more than the percentage of what he should be paying, the fact that he pays less than his court ordered ($100 – $75 = $25) means that John is in violation of the court order and will continue to accrue judgment interest on the outstanding balance until John properly files a petition to modify support.
In other instances, the recipient of child support is cheated if the ex-spouse or obligor received an increase in pay or obtained a large Christmas bonus but failed to provide any portion of that for support. There is a wide variety of compensation that qualifies as “income” for child support purposes and each child receiving support may be entitled to their respective portion. This too may be obtained by either enforcing the current court order for support or filing a modification for support to increase the regularly scheduled support obligation.
You will be entitled to a hearing where a judge will consider the evidence. An experienced attorney will know the important evidence to present to the judge for his/her consideration. The other side will be allowed to present evidence showing they are still entitled to the same amount or even more. Your attorney will be allowed to cross examine the opposing witnesses. In the end, if the hearing is presented properly, you have a high likelihood of convincing the judge to modify the support amount.
The importance of these proceedings cannot be underestimated. You should not try to file these court documents without experienced legal guidance. It commonly is assumed to simply “go it alone” on, what appears to be, simple family matters. You should always consult an attorney to determine what appropriate measures can be taken to protect your best interests. At Hall & Rustom, LLC, we strive to think five moves ahead to protect not only your present interests, but your future interests. To schedule a free consultation, email attorney Michael Fritz or call (309) 699-4691 to set an appointment.
If you have further questions, please visit our website at www.centralillinoislawyers.com and complete our online submission form. Or, you can call our office at 309-699-4691 or email our family law expert, attorney Michael Fritz, at [email protected].