Changing an Order

It is important to contact your local child support office and ask to have your order reviewed and modified as soon as your situation changes.

What state issued your order?

Where to Start

  • When can my order be changed?

    If you are on public assistance (TANF) your case is automatically reviewed once every three years. If you’re not on public assistance (Non-TANF) you can request your case to be reviewed every three years.

    Either parent can ask for a review at any time if there is a substantial change in income or living situation. Contact your child support office as soon as your situation changes to start the modification process.

     

  • What if I have more than one child support order?

    Having more than one support order may be reason to change the first child support order. Each child must receive a portion of the available money. State guidelines detail how money will be shared.

    Ask your state caseworker for more information on how to request a change to more than one order.

  • If I ask to have my order changed, will the amount decrease?

    Not necessarily.

    If your financial situation has improved, your order may increase. If you’ve lost your job, your order will probably decrease, but it depends on your overall income and some other factors.

    The reviewing authority (court or administrative officer) will decide if there has been a "substantial change in circumstances" and will make the final decision. In many states, the new support amount must vary by a certain dollar amount or percentage (10 to 20%) for a modification to be issued.

  • Can I request a change to my order without going through the child support office?

    Some states have information on how to request a change to your child support order using the court system, without child support agency assistance. This is often described as the "pro se" process (where a party represents himself or herself in a legal matter).

    State and local courts may have modification forms on their court website. Other information or forms may be available on www.lawhelp.org. This site may also provide state-specific information on how to find an attorney.

How the Process Works

  • How is a child support order changed?

    States are required by federal law to have procedures for periodic review and adjustment (if appropriate) of child support orders.

    Working with one or both parents, a state may:

    • Review the child support order using state guidelines for setting orders. If the current order amount is different than what guidelines suggest, the support order may be adjusted.
    • Apply a cost-of-living adjustment to the order using a formula developed by the state; or
    • Identify orders eligible for review based on automated comparisons with wage and state income tax data. After reviewing identified cases, the state may apply the appropriate adjustment.

    Either parent can ask for a review at any time if there is a substantial change in income or living situation.

  • What is the difference between a judicial and an administrative modification?

    States may use a judicial or administrative process, or a combination of both, to establish and modify child support orders.

    • Judicial process – the court sets the order.
    • Administrative process – the state child support agency sets the order.

    Select your state from the dropdown box above to find its modification process.

  • How does the local child support office determine if an order should be changed?

    The form you complete to request a review and modification typically requires:

    • A financial statement (some refer to it as a worksheet) of your income and standard allowable expenses.
    • A paystub or documentation of your current income or economic status.
    • The income verification forms and attachments from both parents.

    If you don’t have the most recent income information, the child support office may use previous earnings from other sources such as reported income or tax filings.

    Using the updated income information and state child support guidelines, the child support office calculates the order amount. In many states, the new support amount must vary by a certain dollar amount or percentage (10 to 20%) for a modification to be issued.

Who to Contact

  • Which child support office should I contact?

    Start by contacting the child support agency in the state, county, or territory where your child support case was opened.

    If you are not sure where your child support order was first opened, contact the child support office closest to where you live. Even if that office can't take action on your case, they should be able to tell you who to contact.

    Use the state and tribal contact map to find contact information for your state or tribe.

  • What information will the child support agency need?

    Whenever you contact your local child support office, have this information available:

    • Your full name
    • Date of birth
    • Social Security number,
    • Case name or docket number, if known
    • Children’s names and dates of birth
    • The other parent’s address and date of birth

    Please remember not to provide personally identifiable information through unsecured means such as email.

Last Reviewed: April 6, 2018

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