By: Simone Spence
Since in most areas child support awards are based largely upon the income of the NRP (non-residential parent) as well as your own, you will want to have up-to-date information on his income and assets to present to the decision-maker for consideration. Depending on your time available, energy level, commitment to the modification of your child support and your relationship with the NRP, there are a couple of different routes that you can take to determine his income and assets.
Choice #1: You can ask. Some NRP’s (non-residential parents) will be honest about what they have and what they earn. If the court determines that they should pay more, they will. This eliminates the need for you to take any further steps to get information. On the other hand, some NRP’s will not be honest about what they have and what they earn. They may fear that the child support order will be increased and they do not want that to happen. Either they really are having trouble making ends meet and are not just “crying wolf,” or they are just being a less than wonderful parent and provider, or maybe both. In this case, it is up to you to decide what to do. You can go ahead and ask, or you can move on to Choice #2. However, do realize that it is not the friendliest of choices to make. If you move on to Choice #2, you are possibly setting the scene for animosity between the two of you if it doesn’t already exist. These are personal choices that will affect your life, so make your decisions carefully. If you are really struggling and need your child support money and the NRP doesn’t seem to be budging and providing ample support, you just may not have another choice. Additionally, keep in mind that due to their past behaviors (and only you would know what they are, if they exist) there are some NRP’s who do not deserve the consideration of Choice #1. If that is the case, I encourage you to move straight to Choice #2.
Choice #2: Subpoena the information that you need from the NRP, his employer or his attorney. In this case, do not waste your time asking for information that you most likely will not get anyway. Go for the gusto and haul out the big guns. In the document library on this website you will find a “Request for Production” document, which can be used to formally ask for records of any and all monetary involvement that the absent parent has had for the past three years. This will reveal anything and everything that you need to know. It may be helpful to serve this document along with a subpoena for him to appear at a certain location so that you may ask him questions as well. A sample subpoena is also available in the document library. You do not need an attorney to do it, and the NRP must appear with the documents you request or possibly face penalties. The Request for Production can be done by mail—requesting that the NRP submit the documents you request by a certain date to a certain place. You can have them sent to your home, office, attorney’s office, Grandma’s house— wherever you choose.
When your court date comes, the NRP or his attorney will most likely object to a modification. Because you will have already done a “discovery” (a “sneak preview” look at the documents that will be shown in court—your Request for Production) there will not be too much information that he can dispute. After all, you asked for information concerning all of his money matters, and that’s what you got. He cannot possibly dispute information that he gave you. The most that can be said is that your expenses are too high or that there has not been a significant enough change to warrant an upward increase in child support. This is why it is important for you to be able to prove your case.
At this point, it is up to the decision-maker to decide whether to increase your support or not. If you have gone over the expenses versus income chart (available on this website) with a fine-tooth comb and it shows that you are due for an increase, then you have a good chance of getting one. Although most of these procedures are typically done through attorneys, as I mentioned before, you do not have to have an attorney to get your modification. Just follow the simple directions that have been outlined for you and you should do just fine. It is your legal right to self-represent.
If you are considering hiring an attorney, however, the following two chapters should help you in your search. Attorneys are fine to work with if you can afford them and if they really know the in’s and out’s of child support enforcement. Sometimes they do and sometimes they do not. But, I love a good lawyer and they do have their good points. Decide for yourself if hiring one is right for you.