Many aspects of life can change in the months and years following a divorce. Children grow up fast and ex-spouses adjust their lifestyles. If you went through a divorce and the Arkansas court ordered child support payments, you may be wondering if the change in circumstances that you have experienced since the court order may impact the child support payment requirements.
The answer is yes, in most cases. The State of Arkansas recognizes that modifications to child support are often necessary due to new developments in a child or parent’s life. Circumstances that commonly cause child support payments to be changed include substantial fluctuations in the payor’s income, changes in the recipient’s income, or the child’s development of a costly medical condition. In some other situations, such as where the obligated parent loses their job, it may be more difficult to have modifications to child support payments made.
If you feel that your child support payment arrangement should be altered to match your new reality, the Arkansas child support attorneys at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP want to help. We can research your case and deliver you options for pursuing an adjustment in Arkansas. To set up a time to talk with us, give us a call at (479) 439-9840.
Child Support Payments in Arkansas
Child support payments are typically required by Arkansas law of the parent with fewer visitation rights (or the “obligor”) to be paid to the other parent (the “obligee”) for the benefit of the child or children involved. The size of the payments is determined by an Arkansas court initially by using a sliding scale that considers the net income of the obligor and the number of children for which the payment must provide. That assessment provides a baseline from which courts may deviate if the change is “in the best interest of the child.”
Reasons for Changing Child Support Payments in Arkansas
If a parent asks the court to modify the arrangement, they are suggesting that there has been a change in one or more of the circumstances that the court included in their initial calculation. The following are some examples of circumstances that an Arkansas court will consider for the purposes of modifying a child support payment order:
- Adjustments to custody arrangements
- Substantial changes in either parent’s income or financial situation
- Either parent’s ability to meet requirements of child support or other obligations
- Substantial changes in the reasonable financial requirements of a particular child
- A child having turned 18 or emancipated
Generally, any one of these factors alone (with the exception of a child turning 18) may not be enough to cause an Arkansas court to modify the original child support arrangement. However, where there are multiple changes to these factors or others that are significant for the purposes of either parent’s financial circumstances, the court is obligated to consider the factors together.
Some factors, such as the obligor’s loss of employment or decision to have a child with another person, will likely have no effect on child support arrangements alone. Arkansas expects that a spouse who has lost their job will be seeking and will soon find a similar level of gainful employment. If your particular circumstances indicate that you will remain unemployed for an extended period of time, the court may consider the specifics of your situation subjectively. If a parent is receiving unemployment benefits but is not meeting their child support obligation, the government may withhold the specified child support amount from unemployment distributions.
Having another child is viewed as a separate voluntary financial undertaking, and the financial requirements of caring for a new child most likely won’t have any bearing on a modification decision.
When Can You Have Your Child Support Payments Changed in Arkansas?
You may formally apply to have your child support arrangement modified in Arkansas every 36 months. Either parent may request that the court enter a modification to the child support order. In order to have your request heard, you should file a written request (or a motion) with the clerk of the court, typically in the court that originally determined your child support payments. Your hearing will then be scheduled, where you (or your attorney if you have one) will be able to advocate for the need to augment the old requirements.
Child Support Settlement Agreements vs. Court Modification in Arkansas
If you and your ex-spouse cordially agree to adjust the original child support arrangement, you may not have to go through an Arkansas court. If terms are agreed to and amicable, you may adjust them yourselves outside the courtroom. In order to do this, you will need to draw up a new agreement that affirmatively alters the old requirements, have both parents sign it, and submit it to the court for approval. Once the new agreement is approved, it becomes effective immediately.
You will still have the opportunity to petition the court to adjust this new agreement if it becomes stale or inapplicable, just as you could for a court-ordered child support obligation. For more information about the respective benefits of settling out of court or petitioning, you have the option to consult one of our Fort Smith child support attorneys. Attorneys can represent you in the courtroom or negotiate the terms of a settlement on your behalf.
We Can Help You Change Your Child Support Payments in Arkansas
The diligent Bentonville child support attorneys at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP want nothing more than to see our clients feel comfortable with their financial circumstances. If you feel your situation warrants a modification to your child support arrangement, call our offices at (479) 439-9840.