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If you’re going through a divorce, you’re likely trying to figure out how child support figures into your post-divorce budget. Or, maybe you’ve already gone through a divorce but you need to go through the hassle of having your child-support order modified. Though it sounds like a very complicated issue, child support is actually pretty straightforward. Unlike alimony, child support is much easier to predict and calculate. However, life isn’t so predictable. After the divorce is finalized, you may find that you need to have the child-support order modified. These modifications can bring up a lot of questions and uncertainties.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Child support is calculated based on both parents’ incomes. The Office of Recovery Services, or ORS for short, has an online calculator to help you determine how much you’re likely to pay in child support. Since child support is based on each parent’s income, you will likely be ordered to pay an amount that is proportional to your monthly income. If you cannot afford to pay child support in addition to your other court ordered obligations, you may need to file an appeal.

How Is Child Support Modified?

If you need to modify your child support, you’ll likely need to request the court make the modification. You can file a motion to modify child support, or a petition to modify child support. There are some key differences between a motion to modify child support and a petition to modify child support. A motion to modify child support is typically a much faster process. However, in order for child support to be adjusted by motion, it needs to have been at least three years since entered. Also, there must have been at least a 10% change in income, the difference cannot be temporary, and the proposed modification must be within Utah’s guidelines for child support. If it has been less than three years since your child support order was entered you’ll have to file a petition to modify the order. For the court to make a modification you must establish a substantial change in circumstances warranting modification of the current child support order. Then you must establish the payor’s ordered amount would change by 15% that would be required under the child support guidelines. As before, this change cannot be temporary in nature. 

When Is Child Support Modified?

Usually, child support is only modified when there’s a substantial change in income. In order for a change in income to be considered “substantial,” it typically has to increase by 30%. However, the guidelines are different if less than three years has elapsed since the child support was initially ordered or last modified. Unlike alimony, you do not need to modify child support when your ex-spouse gets married, even if your ex-spouse marries someone with a significant monthly income.


Child support may be modified when a spouse is unemployed. However, this isn’t typically the case. Unemployment is usually considered a temporary condition. In a particularly bad economy, you may be able to have child support temporarily reduced. If you need to have child support temporarily reduced due to unemployment, you may need to prove that you’ve been actively searching for a job. If you are voluntarily unemployed, meaning you’re able to find a job but you’re unwilling to work, the court can impute your income. This means that you’d be ordered to pay child support at the income you could be making even though you’re currently unemployed.


Child support may also be modified if a spouse has a career change that significantly diminishes their earning capacity. However, as previously mentioned, child support isn’t typically modified under these circumstances either. For the most part, people don’t typically find themselves in situations where their earning capacity has gone down. If you’re voluntarily underemployed, meaning you’ve intentionally chosen to work a lower paying job in order to pay less child support, the court can also impute your income. 

When You Need Help Modifying Child Support

Even though the calculation of child support is pretty straight forward, there can always be complicated extenuating circumstances.  If you need to have your child support order modified, consulting an experienced family law attorney is always a good idea. At CoilLaw, we’ve helped many clients navigate one of the most traumatic events of their lives. Our family law firm has experience in a wide range of family law matters: from modifying child support orders to high conflict divorces, CoilLaw has seen it all. If you’re ready to get the legal advice and expertise you deserve, contact CoilLaw today for an initial consultation.


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