If child support is too high, can I do anything about it?

If child support is too high, can I do anything about it?


As financial situations change, the amount of child support you ordered may no longer be reasonable. Your income may have decreased due to no fault of your own. Or the child support payor’s income may have substantially increased.

You cannot modify your child support obligation simply because you want to; however, if circumstances have changed substantially between the time the original child support order was issued and now, the child support obligation may be modified to reflect this change in circumstances. These circumstances could include your children attaining the age of adulthood, one parent spending more time with the children, or a change in income for you and/or your ex-spouse.

If you lose your job or suddenly or have other reasons why your child support amount is too high, your monthly child support obligation does not change automatically. Indeed, each month’s obligation becomes a judgment against you for the full amount ordered. Failure to pay child support in full can subject to you sanctions by the court, even criminal prosecution.

So if you cannot pay the amount of child support ordered, you need to take action to seek a modification of your child support obligation as soon as possible. Each month that goes by without you having petitioned to modify the child support amount cannot be retroactively modified. But a child support obligation may be modified with respect to any period during which a modification is pending, retroactive to the date of service of the pleading on the other parent. If support is ordered to be modified, the effective date of the modification shall be the month following service on the parent whose support is affected. Once the court determines that a modification is appropriate, it must order a judgment to be entered for any difference in the original order and the modified amount for the period from the service of the pleading until the final order of modification is entered. (Utah Code § 78B-12-112(4)).

Under Utah Code Section 78B-12-210(8), child support order can be modified by motion if three or more years have passed since the order was entered and:

  • there is a difference of 10% or more between the support amount as ordered and the new support amount under the child support guidelines;
  • the difference is not temporary; and
  • the proposed child support amount is consistent with the amount set by the child support guidelines.

If any of these things is missing from your case, you must file a Petition to Modify Child Support under Utah Code Section 78B-12-210(9). Under this section, there must have been a material change:

  • in custody;
  • in the relative wealth or assets of the parties;
  • of 30% or more in the income of a parent;
  • in the employment potential and ability of a parent to earn;
  • in the medical needs of the child;
  • in the legal responsibilities of a parent for the support of others;
  • in the availability or cost of health care coverage;
  • in work-related or education-related child care expenses of the payor or the payee of child support; or
  • due to the emancipation of a child.

The material change must result in a difference, which is not temporary, of 15% or more between the support amount as ordered and what would be the new support amount as required under the child support guidelines.

As soon as your financial circumstances change, you should consult with a family law attorney to determine if a support modification is warranted. They can help you seek this modification, changing the amount you are required to pay as soon as possible.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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