Child Support Modification: Be Careful What You Wish For

Today I represented the mother of four children one of whom was now 21 and no longer eligible for child support. The father filed in Family Court a petition for emancipation of the oldest child and for a recalculation of his child support obligation. As a result the Father is now paying more for three children than his prior order for four children!

When the parties divorced several years ago the father was earning $50,000. He is now earning $70,000. The child support formula (simplified here) is that he was paying $1,292 per month on his prior income of $50,000. This is based on the 31% payment for four children.

However, upon request the Family Court will, unless the divorce judgment and agreement provide otherwise, do an automatic recalculation of child support upon the emancipation of each child based upon the CURRENT income of the parties.

The child support formula for the support of three children is 29% so when that is applied to the new income of $70,000 child support becomes $1,692 per month, an increase of $400 per month.

Increases in income can more than offset the percentage reduction of child support for emancipation. In this case the father, had ne never filed, would have continued to pay the lower amount. Now because he thought he would get a reduction he has an increase.

Therefore, prior to filing for a modification, I recommend that a consultation take place with an experienced matrimonial attorney to learn of the risks of the filing.