Divorce can be very draining, emotionally. It is oftentimes draining financially as well.

But sometimes the end of the marriage does not create certainty as to how much the obligor spouse may end up paying to a spouse who is financially disadvantaged or who is the primary caregiver for the parties’ children.

ALIMONY

Different state’s laws vary on alimony. But just because a certain amount of alimony has been ordered for a time certain at the time of divorce does not necessarily mean that alimony payment is set in stone. Some alimony is modifiable while some is not. Simply because a spouse is divorced and there is an order requiring that spouse to pay alimony, does not mean that is the only alimony that one spouse may owe or the other spouse may receive. Under certain circumstances, alimony may be modified. Whether alimony is modifiable or not depends on the applicable law of the involved state. But knowing whether alimony is modifiable or not is critical in terms of future ability to receive it or obligation to pay it.

CHILD SUPPORT

Child support may be modified. As a general rule the parent who spends most of the time with a child or children after a divorce is entitled to receive child support from the other parent.

The amount of child support is determined by using a Child Support Worksheet. The Child Support Worksheet uses primarily the gross income of both of the parents, the time that each of the parents spend with the child or children and the amount of daycare or healthcare expenses paid on behalf of the child or children to generate the amount of monthly child support that must be paid.

Child support is modifiable. But in order to do so, the parent requesting that child support be modified must file a request with the court.

Divorced parents are supposed to exchange tax returns every year. This helps each parent better understand the financial situation of the other parent. In order to change child support there must be a certain change in the amount of child support that would be owed which may vary by state. This means that a savvy parent would need to run the current figures in the Child Support Worksheet in order to determine whether the child support may be modified, and know the percentage of change required under their state’s law.

MODIFICATION IS NOT AUTOMATIC

A parent who is entitled to modify alimony or child support, whether upwards or downwards, does not automatically receive the modification. In order to change alimony or child support, a spouse must file a request to change the alimony or child support with the court that has jurisdiction over their case. This means that simply because a parent is entitled to change alimony or child support, does not mean that alimony or child support will be changed. In addition, if a spouse who is entitled to change alimony or child support does not file the appropriate documentation with the court, the alimony or child support will not change.

WAITING IS A MISTAKE

As a general rule, even if alimony or child support is supposed to be changed, the burden is on the spouse who wants the change to do something about it. The change is not necessarily retroactive. This means that even if a spouse is entitled to increase or decrease alimony or child support, that the effective date for changing the alimony or child support may be the date that the request is filed with the court, not the date that the change took place.

If a parent is entitled to change alimony or child support, therefore, and that change is to the parent’s benefit, moving quickly is very important. If that parent does not request the change, then the change generally will not occur. In addition, even if a change should occur, the change may not be effective until the date that the parent requesting the change files the request with the appropriate court.