How Do I Modify a Child Support Order?

Patricia TichenorLegal

modify child support

During your divorce proceedings, you and your former spouse may have signed a Consent Order or Agreed Order spelling out your arrangements for child support. These arrangements were based on both of your circumstances at the time and what was best for your minor child.

As time passes and your lives change, you may find that your current child support Order is no longer applicable to your current situation. If extenuating circumstances require an increase or decrease in the amount of child support that is currently stated in your Order, either parent may file a motion with the local court to modify it.

Common reasons to change a child support Order

Going through the legal process of modifying your child support order is essential for memorializing your new agreement in writing. Verbal or “unofficial” written agreements via email or text message may not hold up in court if you and your ex have a disagreement about child support payments down the road.

Additionally, support Orders may not be changed on a whim; the parent filing the motion must show a “material change in circumstance,” such as a significant shift in income or employment status since the original Order was signed.

Here are a few common circumstances that may warrant a valid change to your existing Order:

  • One parent’s income has significantly increased or decreased.
  • One parent becomes unemployed.
  • The parent receiving child support has an increased ability to support the child ( rental income, income from inheritance, a raise at work, etc.).
  • The payor has becomes responsible for another child’s support.
  • The child becomes ill or disabled and requires ongoing medical treatment, or otherwise has a significant increase in living expenses.

How to modify child support in Virginia

To request a modification to your existing child support Order, you will need to draft, sign, and file the following forms with the same Virginia Court that granted your original Order, unless both you and the other parent have relocated outside of Virginia – in which case, you may need to decide where to register your Virginia Court Order in the new State in which you reside (*). For Circuit Court matters, where you are re-opening your divorce case in order to seek modification, regardless of which party is filing the Motion to Modify, you will keep the same positions from your original divorce case caption (e.g., if you were named Plaintiff in the divorce case, you remain the Plaintiff, even if your ex is the one filing the Motion, and your ex will remain the Defendant if s/he was the Defendant in the original divorce case).

  1. Motion to Reopen and Reinstate Your Divorce Case. This form will contain your original divorce case number (called the “base number”) with the Clerk adding a sub-number based on how many times you file to reopen your divorce file (example:  -01, -02, etc.). In it, you request that the Court reopen and reinstate the case for the purpose of reviewing and modifying your existing child support arrangements.
  2. Order to Reopen Your Divorce Case. This form restates the information in your Motion and will be signed by a judge and returned to you.
  3. Motion for Review and Modification of Child Support. In this form, you will present the facts of your case, including the existing child support provisions of your Final Order of Divorce, an explanation of the material change of circumstance, and the modification that you and your ex have agreed to.
  4. Consent Child Support Order. This form contains more details of your modified child support provisions, along with certain legal Notices and Information as required by law. You and your ex must both sign this form in the presence of a Notary Public before filing with the Court. A judge will sign and return it to you, at which time you may begin abiding by your new child support provisions.
  5. Virginia Civil Cover Sheet (Form CC-1416). This is a standard PDF form that must be filed with every civil court case in the Commonwealth.

Keep in mind that the above DIY instructions apply to an uncontested modification case in a Circuit Court. If your proposed modifications are contested or if your case needs to be heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (J&DR) District Courts, you should schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with My Legal Case Coach to determine whether you might be served best using our ongoing coaching platform or should consider otherwise hiring an attorney for full representation. We also offer a separate, comprehensive DIY Case Form Packet specific to J&DR District Court matters for matters involving child support.

(*)   If you are not sure about where to file for child support modification, you should schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with My Legal Case Coach for guidance before purchasing either our Circuit Court or J&DR District Court packets.

Need help modifying your child support order?

My Legal Case Coach offers a comprehensive, easy-to-use DIY Case Form Packet that will help you draft all the legal documents you need to re-open and modify child support order(s) in any of Virginia’s Circuit Courts or J&DR Courts. Your packet purchase comes with one (1) FREE hour of 1:1 virtual coaching to ensure you feel confident about the forms you’ve prepared.

If you’re not sure which packet you need, take our 30-second quiz or schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to discuss your specific circumstances.