When Can Support Payments be Modified in Washington?

Posted on December 26, 2023 06:08am
When Can Support Payments be Modified in Washington?

In Washington, support payments, whether child or spousal, are not necessarily fixed indefinitely. The law recognizes that life circumstances can change, sometimes drastically, and these changes may warrant a modification of the existing support order. This adjustment is a legal procedure that necessitates a thorough understanding of the associated laws and regulations.

The requirements for modification, however, differ between child support and spousal support payments. A significant change in circumstances is generally the basis for modifying a child support order, such as a considerable increase or decrease in either parent's income, or a significant change in the child's needs. On the other hand, for spousal support payments, the court considers factors such as the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, and the standard of living during the marriage, among other things. In this blog, we are sharing the process of adjusting support payments, so you can make an informed decision about next steps.

What Is Considered a Substantial Change in Circumstances?

A substantial change in circumstances generally refers to a significant alteration in the situation of one or both parties that could impact their ability to pay or the need for support. It's not a term that is taken lightly by the courts, and it usually means that something major has happened. This alteration must have occurred after the original order was issued and must be potentially long-term, involuntary, and unexpected.

Examples of a substantial change in circumstances may include:

  • A significant increase or decrease in income for either party
  • Job loss or a major career change
  • Remarriage of the payer or the recipient
  • Serious illness or disability
  • Significant change in the child's needs or expenses
  • A substantial change in the cost of living

The Process of Adjusting Support Payments

The process of adjusting support payments in Washington can involve several steps, including:

  1. Petition for Modification: The first step is the filing of a Petition for Modification of a Support Order. This petition must detail the reasons behind the request, specifically highlighting the "substantial change in circumstances" that warrants a modification.
  2. Service of Notice: After filing the petition, you must provide a copy of it to the other party involved in the support order. This is known as "service of process" and is important for ensuring that the other party is aware of the proposed modification and has the opportunity to respond.
  3. Response: The other party then has 20 days (if they were served in Washington) to respond to the petition. If they disagree with the petition, they can detail their objections in their response.
  4. Court Hearing: If the other party disagrees with the modification, or if they don't respond and the court needs more information, a court hearing will be set. Both parties should attend this hearing.
  5. Judge's Decision: After hearing from both parties and reviewing all the evidence and documentation, the judge will make a decision regarding the modification. The judge may approve the modification, deny it, or make alterations.
  6. Order of Modification: If the judge approves the modification, an Order of Modification will be issued, which outlines the new terms of the support order. This order is as legally binding as the original support order and must be strictly adhered to.
Remember that the laws and regulations surrounding support order modifications can be complex. It is highly advisable to seek the assistance of a family law attorney to ensure that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities and that all legal procedures are properly followed.

Legal Guidance for Filing a Motion to Adjust Support

A family law attorney can provide critical support when you're seeking a modification to your support payments. They can assist in preparing and filing your Petition for Modification, ensuring that it accurately reflects your circumstances and convincingly presents your case for a change.

They can also help you prepare for the potential court hearing, arming you with the necessary knowledge to effectively communicate your position and respond to objections. An attorney can also offer advice and guidance on what constitutes a "substantial change in circumstances" that courts typically consider. If the modification is approved, your attorney can assist in interpreting the new support order to ensure it's accurately implemented.

If you are looking to modify your child support or spousal support payments, call McKinley Irvin at 206-397-0399 or contact us online.

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