When it comes to paying child support in Greenville, S.C., parents are more likely to pay consistently when the established amount is manageable based upon their income. But, circumstances do change, and meeting the original court-ordered figure can become difficult. As a result, arrears increase and even penalties are applied which can result in incarceration for non-payment. By acting quickly and talking to the relevant authorities about your changed situation, the child support order may be reduced to a more manageable amount. Below, we discuss child support modifications in South Carolina.
Child Support Orders in Greenville, S.C.
Typically, child support orders in the state are established in two ways:
- As part of a divorce proceeding
- By the South Carolina Department of Social Services Child Support Enforcement (CSE)
Orders that are established via the CSE may be modified by the agency. Child support obligations that are established as part of a divorce proceeding are referred to as “private orders” and have to be modified through the Family Court.
Further, a custodial parent may request a private order be enforced by the CSE, in which case the support obligation can be modified administratively by the agency. If an agency attorney is present at contempt hearings, the order is deemed to be enforced by the CSE.
The steps to modifying child support in Greenville, S.C. tend to vary depending on the way the order was initially established.
Who Is Entitled to a Support Modification?
There are three main significant changes in circumstances in which a modification may be granted:
- The payor has an adopted or biological child living in the home who was adopted or born since the original child support order was made;
- The person paying child support makes noticeably less income at his or her current place of employment than when the original order was made. The CSE uses a standard formula for defining the word “substantially.” The formula has been calculated based on the latest child support worksheet which results in the amount owed being 20% or more less than the initial order. In order to determine your payment according to the guidelines, you need correct and current financial information. If none is available, the modification request must be made to document a lower rate of pay and increased difficulties of making payment on time. It must be noted that the CSE only modifies the support amount if the amount that should be paid is 20% less that what is currently paid.
- The payor has a medical condition or was injured and is unable to work. The condition has to be documented by a medical doctor, but need only be a simple written statement that defines the circumstances.
What’s more, the state court might consider shared custody, any extraordinary expenses, and any other orders that are in place. If a payor does meet one of the above three significant changes in circumstances, there are a few steps he or she can take, depending on whether the payor has a private order or a CSE order.
What Happens If You Have a Private Order?
if you currently have a private child support order in place in Greenville, S.C., the CSE will not be able to modify the order should change in circumstances have taken place. It is up to you to file your legal papers at the Family Court and request a modification.
What About a CSE Order Modification?
If you already have a CSE order in place, there are several steps to take to request a modification or reduction.
The first step is to write a letter to the CSE letting them know that a change in your circumstances has occurred and requesting a modification to your current child support order. The letter should be sent to the CSE caseworker who has been assigned to the case in the regional office the enforces the order. In the letter, you must identify who you are, explicitly state what your change in circumstance is and request a review of the case.
The next step is to collect attachments. Depending on what your change in circumstances is, you can compose a version of the sample letter found on the CSE’s website to ensure you provide the necessary information that the agency needs to verify the parameters for your change in circumstances. For instance:
- Is the change in circumstances due to a medical illness or injury? If the answer is yes, include a statement from your physician that identifies how long you will not be able to work and describes your inability to perform your job or certain types of work.
- If the change in circumstances is related to your income, attach a minimum of two pay stubs from your current job.
- If the change in circumstances is related to a new child in the house, attach the adoption papers or the birth certificate.
The final step is to keep copies of all the documents that you send off to the CSE. It is a good idea to either hand deliver the papers to the office or send them by certified mail along with a return receipt requested to the relevant case worker.
If you do not receive a response from the CSE, you can file legal modification paperwork with the court.
Before You Fill Out the Legal Modification Paperwork
Prior to filling out the relevant forms, there are a few points to be aware of:
- Make sure your situation fits into one of the three “change in circumstances” categories listed above or applies to any other possible considerations;
- Gather all the necessary documents to confirm your change in circumstances;
- Make sure you are able to pay to have the legal paperwork processed. You will need fees for filing papers at Family Court as well as the Sheriff’s Department fee for serving papers.
If the non-custodial parent is unable to pay the total amount of fees to process the legal paperwork, along with their Complaint for Decrease, they can file a Motion and Affidavit to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.
Hiring a Greenville Family Law Attorney
The South Carolina courts have streamlined the process for modifying the amount of child support payable. Either parent is allowed to ask for a change, but the parent that is seeking to reduce payments must be able to show a change in circumstances. Navigating Family Court is a daunting prospect, but an experienced attorney from Elliot Frazier can help you seek the modification you need if you feel you are paying too much child support or your circumstances have changed.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.