When a divorce involves children, one of the most important decisions made is how much child support the custodial parent will receive from the noncustodial parent for the child’s care. The amount of child support in the order typically remains in place until the child reaches 18 years old. However, this also means that if a child support order is off, even by as little as $100, it can mean thousands of dollars in the long-term either being paid over or under what the child support order should actually be. In these cases, a parent can appeal a child support decision in order to adjust the amount of support that is truly owed.
When to Appeal a Child Support Decision
Appealing a child support decision cannot be done in every circumstance. Simply because you disagree with the amount decided on by the family court judge is not enough to warrant an appeal. In order to appeal a child support decision, there must be an error in law that applies to the case. Legal errors can happen for a number of reasons, including prejudicial decision making by the judge, reliance on incorrect legal principles, mistakes in legal procedure, or not taking into account the correct factors for what is in the best interests of your child. In situations in which legal mistakes result in an incorrect child support amount, an appeal can be made to correct the order with the court.
How to Appeal a Child Support Decision
If you and your lawyer have determined that a legal error occurred in your child support ruling, appealing the order means taking the decision to the next level of the court process, the appellate court, to overrule or remand the decision of the family court judge. Unlike the family court level, appellate judges do not take into consideration new or additional evidence in the case. They review the record of the family court, take relevant appeal briefs drafted by your attorney and the attorney of your former spouse, and rule on whether there was an error of law at the lower level court. Appeals of child support orders must happen within 60 days of the initial ruling.
The importance of having an experienced appellate attorney for your case can not be stressed enough. A lawyer can review the transcript of the family court case to determine where the errors in law occurred and draft a detailed brief for the appellate court that explains where and how the errors affect your case. An appellate attorney can also argue your case in front of the panel of appellate judges in the most effective and compelling way possible to prove that your child support order should be changed from the original decision.
Motion for Reconsideration
One option available immediately after a child support ruling is a motion for reconsideration. A motion for reconsideration takes place in front of the same family court judge that made the initial ruling, and it must be filed within 10 days of the child support decision. A motion for reconsideration states that the judge failed to consider relevant facts of the case or circumstances that were not available at the time of the initial ruling. A motion for reconsideration can also be made when you believe that the judge applied the law incorrectly. For errors in law, a motion for reconsideration can be filed prior to an appeal to have any additional information put on the record before the appellate court reviews the case for legal mistakes.
Modification of a Child Support Order
If several months or years have passed since the original child support order, beyond the statute of limitations for an appeal or motion for reconsideration, and one or both parents have had a change in circumstances, a modification of a child support order can be requested. In order to modify an existing child support order, you must prove to the court that there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrant the change. Some common reasons for a modification of a child support order include one parent losing a job, getting a significant raise, incarceration, having additional children, significant changes in the amount of time spent with each parent, changes in the child’s needs, or changes in any of the factors used to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
Regardless of the legal path chosen to change a child support order – appeal, motion for reconsideration, or modification – you need an experienced attorney by your side. A lawyer will help you navigate the complex legal process of changing a child support decision, file the proper paperwork, and make the best arguments to the judge in your case. A lawyer can review the facts of your case and advise you on the best course of action to take to change the child support order.