When to Seek a Child Support Modification

Written by Jonathan Breeden

April 17, 2019

Parents who divorce in North Carolina, or those who never married, are typically subject to a child support order so that the children of their union will be properly cared for. Support orders can be subject to modification under certain circumstances. You may wonder under what conditions you should seek a child support modification.

Reasons to seek modification can vary, but might include remarriage of either parent, or significant changes in income, custody, or the child’s needs. To learn more about these situations, contact a North Carolina child support lawyer at Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970, or reach out online to schedule a consultation of your case.

Requirements for Child Support Modification

Child support orders may never need to be reviewed. If that is the case, the order continues until your child reaches 18 years of age and graduates from high school (or up to 20-years-old if the child remains in school working toward a high school diploma). If your order does need consideration, certain requirements must be met, including:

  • The order is for at least one child who is less than 18 years of age.
  • At least three years have passed since the order was entered and/or modified.

In cases where it has been less than three years since the order was entered or modified, the court can still review the request if there has been a “change in circumstances” for you or the child’s other parent. Such changes include physical custody, your child’s medical or educational needs, or parental incomes and applying the Child Support Guidelines to your current situation would change your support amount by 15% or more.

An automatic review of child support orders occurs if it has been at least three years since the order was entered or modified, and one parent request it.

Circumstances That May Trigger Child Support Modification

A number of circumstances could necessitate a change in your child support order. Such situations include:

Remarriage/New Children

Typically, North Carolina law does not consider the income of a non-parent in situations of re-marriage or other co-habitation. But there could be circumstances in which your new relationship factors into support obligations. For instance, the court may consider that through sharing expenses, such as a mortgage, utilities, and groceries, the parent now has additional income for child support.

Also, having additional children isn’t of itself enough to ask for a modification. There must be other factors, as well. This is true even though the guidelines do allow a deduction from a parent’s gross income for natural or adopted children currently residing with that parent.

Change in Income

A loss of income for an extended period can be a reason to seek modification to your child support order. The court will consider whether the loss was voluntary or involuntary. In addition, income might be imputed to the unemployed parent for the purposes of child support.

Income changes work both ways, of course. If a parent has received regular raises, bonuses, or a better job, especially if the income would result in a 15% or more increase in child support, a modification may be in order.


Child support modifications may be sought if there is a change in custody. For example, if a parent has sole custody, but the court orders shared or sole custody to the other parent, there may be a reason to seek a modification.

The Needs of Your Child

Your child may develop different needs over the years. A child that ages out of expensive daycare may not need as much support once school attendance begins. On the other hand, a child may need private schooling, which comes with tuition and other expenses. Increased medical expenses might also be a reason to seek a modification. A child diagnosed with an ongoing condition such as diabetes or asthma may need additional support.

Contact Breeden Law Office for Help

If you are wondering when you can seek a child support modification, consulting with Breeden Law Office is a good initial step. Attorney Jonathan Breeden is ready to explain if circumstances warrant, and the law allows, you to seek a modification. To schedule an evaluation of your case, contact us today at (919) 661-4970.


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