Don’t Wait Too Long to File a Motion to Modify Child Support


We oftentimes have clients come in to our office telling us that they have experienced a change in their employment circumstances and that they can “no longer afford” child support, and request our assistance.

Child support can only be modified upon a Court finding a “substantial change in circumstances” has occurred on the child support payor/obligor’s circumstances as it relates to their finances.  This may mean job loss, or it may mean a raise or promotion.  The Court has a bit of discretion when making a determination of what constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances” under the purview of Section 750 ILCS 5/510 the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

We often see clients and potential clients running into trouble when they don’t file for a modification of child support in a timely manner.  When a party is requesting a modification of child support, the Court generally can only order a modification of child support that is retroactive back to the date a petition to modify support is filed.  In plain English, a Court is not going to make your child support “go away” or “decrease” (or increase, if the petition seeks to increase support) backwards to the date when your pay changed.  The Court generally will only modify the support payments back to the date that you or the other party first asked the Court to make the modification (or, the date that a petition was filed).

An example by way of illustration is Pete, who used to earn $50,000 net per year.  He received a salary decrease on April 1, 2013 and now only earns $35,000 per year.  Pete waits until May 1, 2013 to file a motion requesting the Court to decrease his child support.  Thus, for the period of April 1, 2013 through May 1, 2013 Pete will still have to pay his old support amount based off of him earning $50,000 net per year, even though he was really earning $35,000 per year during that time period.  Waiting a month to file the support modification petition hurts Pete in this situation.

The lesson to be learned here is not to wait to file a motion to modify support once a substantial change in circumstances occurs, whether it is to increase support or decrease support.  Waiting too long can have an impact on your support obligation.  If you believe there has been a substantial change in circumstances that would impact your support obligation or support that you are receiving, call our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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