Modifying alimony and child support in Connecticut is possible. After a divorce decree has been entered, the circumstances of the former spouses or children may change, creating a need to modify the original support award. The most common reasons for requesting a modification are financial – especially in the current economy, where many people have had their work hours reduced, been laid off or lost their jobs.
Under Connecticut law, either spouse can petition the court for a post-judgment modification unless, in the case of alimony, the divorce decree precludes modification. The modification may be a request to increase or decrease the award, or temporarily or permanently stop the payments.
When modifying alimony and child support, the party requesting the modification has the burden of proving to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original support award was entered, or since the last time the order was modified. There is no set list of what constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances” – instead, the court considers the parties’ individual circumstances when making this determination.
Modifying Alimony Orders
In cases of alimony, the court will specifically consider whether there has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of one or both of the parties. This could include things like either party getting a new job, a raise or other increase in their compensation. It also may include either party experiencing a decrease in compensation or changes in the assets of either party.
Other factors that may indicate a substantial change in financial circumstances include:
- Deteriorating health of either party
- Loss of child support or change in child custody
- Remarriage or cohabitation
If the court finds that there has been a substantial change in either party’s financial circumstances, then the court will consider the same set of factors it looked at when the alimony award was first entered. These factors include:
- The length of the marriage
- The cause of the divorce
- The age, health, station, occupation and sources of income of the parties
- The vocational skills and employability of the parties
- The estate and needs of each party
- If one parent has custody of minor children, the desirability of that parent securing employment
The court will balance the financial needs of the party receiving the alimony with the financial ability of the paying spouse to make the payments before granting the modification.
Modifying Child Support Orders
Parents seeking a modification of a child support order may base their petition on one of two grounds:
- A substantial change in circumstances since the previous support order
- A substantial deviation from the Connecticut child support guidelines
A change in either the parents’ or the child’s circumstances may necessitate a corresponding change in the child support order. For example, if the child has developed a medical condition that has resulted in significant medical bills, the recipient parent may seek an increase in the child support award to help cover the increased costs.
Other examples of substantial change in circumstances include:
- Employment changes – new job, raise, job loss
- Other financial changes
- Change in custody or visitation
- The child’s educational expenses
- Changes in the health of the child
When modifying alimony and child support under Connecticut law, any change of at least 15 percent is presumed to be a “substantial increase.” The 15 percent change does not refer to an increase or decrease in one of the parent’s incomes. Instead, that after recalculating the child support order with the parent’s new financial information, if the award is at least 15 percent different then this constitutes a substantial increase.
It is important to note that parents cannot base a modification request on substantial deviation grounds if the court made a specific finding in the original child support order that applying the child support guides to this case was inequitable or inappropriate.
Parties must have the court’s approval prior to changing the amount of alimony or child support they pay, even if the parties have come to an agreement on the new amount. Failure to make a support payment on time – particularly child support – can have serious consequences under Connecticut law.
Contact me online or call me in my Stamford office at (203) 356-1475 or in my Fairfield office at (203) 259-5251 to discuss your options and learn more about modifying alimony and child support in Connecticut.