Alaska courts will include a child support order in the final divorce judgment. The court determines support amounts and schedules based on official guidelines as well as its own assessment of the child's best interests.
Sometimes, circumstances change and the terms of the original order no longer work well for the parties involved. However, failing to comply with a support order can result in considerable trouble and even lead to jail. Therefore, it is important to seek an official modification of the order and not just adopt informal changes, even if everyone agrees at the moment.
Common reasons to reduce support
A paying parent can apply for a decrease in support if his or her income drops by at least fifteen percent. Courts may reduce support amounts if they find the change is permanent or substantial and that there is a good reason for it. Unemployment will not always result in a reduction; courts will dig deeper to determine whether the parent genuinely cannot find work or is simply choosing voluntary unemployment or underemployment. Other grounds for reduction may include the paying parent filing for bankruptcy or undergoing a temporary decrease in income to pursue education that would, in the long term, increase earning capacity (a degree in underwater basket weaving probably will not qualify).
Grounds for requesting an increase
Courts may order an increase or decrease in support if the custody and visitation arrangements change in a way that would affect either parent's support expenses. A parent may want to request an increase if the child develops a need for medical treatments or educational support. An increase of at least fifteen percent in the paying parent's income can also warrant an increase, as the children have a right to participate in the lifestyle of both parents.
If the modification is granted, it will not apply retroactively. The new amount will typically begin applying as of the date of the new order.