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What is "substantial change" for a child support obligation?

According to the Missouri legislature, the necessary change in circumstance must be "so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable." But, as they save on TV, wait, there's more. In order to determine if the change is substantial and continuing, a court must look a several factors.

First, the statute requires the consideration of the all the financial resources of the parents. This includes the reasonable expenses of another party, either a spouse or a cohabitant. The court also must consider the earning capacity of a party who is unemployed. This is to prevent someone from temporarily avoiding work in an effort to reduce his or her child support payment. 

The court then consults the child support guidelines, the standard statutory factors used to determine child support and Supreme Court rules. If that calculation would require a 20 percent or more change in the existing child support payment, then a party can make the argument that their change in circumstance has rendered their current payment "unreasonable" and they are entitled to a modification in the amount.

This is not a simple argument to make. The court is going have to reexamine virtually all of the factors from the original support order, and if you are moving for the change, the court will expect that you and your attorney can provide clear evidence for all of the factors.

If you have changed jobs, perhaps because you were laid off, and you can document the extensive and lengthy job search you undertook to find a new employment. Sending on a few resumes over a couple of weeks may not convince the court your effort was genuine.

If you feel you are eligible for a modification of your child support order, be prepared to bring documentation to your attorney and explain in detail the factors that support your conclusion.

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