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Can you reduce a child support payment?

In Illinois, when a parent believes they can no longer afford their child support, they can request a modification. In order for a court to grant such a modification, the parent must show a substantial change in circumstances justifying the modification of the child support obligation.

Some parents may believe that because they lost a job or their income has changed, they will be entitled to such a modification. However, a court must consider a list of statutory factors before they can modify an existing child support amount. Courts must always consider carefully the issue, as some parents attempt to avoid their child support payments by becoming voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.

A case from Pennsylvania demonstrates some of the issues a court must look at in this process. In that case, a father was employed by the Department of Corrections. He claimed he had requested a transfer to a closer location before his child was born, but the transfer was not available until after he was divorced.

He accepted the transfer, but had to take a $1,500 reduction in salary, as no comparable positions were available. The judge in his case refused to modify his child support payment. He appealed, and the higher court reversed the judge, ordering him to recalculate the payment.

The judge had failed to consider his intent in taking the lower paying job. While voluntarily taking such a position might be a red flag, here the father presented valid reasons of wanting to reduce his commuting time and having more time with his child.

These are the types of arguments you need to make to a court in order to successfully obtain a modification of a child support order.

Source:, "Judge told to recalculate child support payments," Joe Pinchot, May 28, 2013

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