Every 3 years, any parent can ask the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) to schedule a review and adjustment conference. At the conference, both parents are asked to provide current information regarding income, childcare expenses, medical insurance availability and expenses, other children in the home, and other child support orders. CSSD uses this information to calculate the possible amount of support to be paid according to the DC Child Support Guidelines. If this new amount is different from the old amount by 15% or more, a motion to modify the order can be filed.
Order Modification (Adjustment) Basics
Change of Circumstances
Substantial and Material Change
Any parent can request a review and adjustment conference, or independently file a motion in court to modify, if there has been a substantial and material change in the needs of the child(ren) or in the payment ability of the parent who was ordered to pay support. CSSD will proceed with a review, outside of the 3-year cycle, only if the requesting parent provides sufficient evidence of substantial and material change in circumstances.
Requesting a Modification of Medical Support
If a child support order does not include medical support, or if the medical needs of a child have changed since the order was entered, a parent can request a review and adjustment conference with CSSD to examine the request for a change in the order's medical support terms. Note that a parent may file an independent motion with the court to add or modify medical support.
The DC Child Support Guidelines
The DC Child Support Guidelines determine the ongoing support amount to be paid by the parent ordered to pay support. By law, information about the parents is used in the formula to calculate the support amount. That information includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- The incomes of both parents
- The custodial parent’s childcare expenses
- Medical insurance expenses for the child(ren)
- Any other child support obligations for the parent ordered to pay support
- The number of biological or adopted children living in the household of the parent ordered to pay support
The Order Modification (Adjustment) Process
How to Schedule a Review and Adjustment Conference with CSSD
Contact the CSSD Enforcement Unit at (202) 442-9900, #4 or (202) 724-2316, Monday - Friday, 8:15am - 4:45pm.
Preparing for the Review and Adjustment Conference
Please provide copies of the following before the conference and bring any originals on the day of the conference:
- Your most recent support order
- Two current pay statements, if employed
- Your most recent federal income tax forms and/or W-2 statements
- Proof of childcare expenses for the child(ren) in the support order
- Proof of medical insurance coverage and cost for the child(ren) in the support order
- Proof of any other child support order(s) and proof of payment on the order(s)
- Proof of any other biological or adopted child(ren) in the home of the person ordered to pay support
- Any other information that shows there has been a substantial and material change in the needs of the child(ren) or in the payment ability of the parent ordered to pay support
The Review and Adjustment Conference
During the review and adjustment conference, CSSD will estimate the current amount of support owed under the DC Child Support Guidelines.
If both parents agree to this amount or to another amount, they can sign a consent order that sets a new support amount and start date. However, note that the new support amount will not go into effect until approved by the court. After the review and adjustment conference, CSSD will file the consent support order with the DC Superior Court. Once the judge signs it, it becomes effective.
A Motion to Modify Support
When to file a motion to modify: If the parents do not agree to the new guideline support amount after the review and adjustment conference, then a motion to modify must be filed with the court before a support change can be made. CSSD may file the motion to modify, if a substantial and material change in circumstances is shown. However, a parent may independently file a motion for modification, if desired.
How to file a motion to modify: A parent may contact the CSSD Enforcement Unit at (202) 442-9700, #4 or (202) 724-2316 to speak with the case management specialist assigned to the case. A parent also may contact the DC Superior Court Self-Help Center at (202) 879-0096 for additional information.
The modification hearing: The DC Superior Court schedules all court hearings. Generally, a hearing will be scheduled for a time within 45 days following the filing of the motion; however, hearing times vary.
The change in ongoing support: A support order is not changed until a judge signs the order granting the modification. This usually happens after the judge reviews the consent order agreed to by the parents or after a hearing on the motion to modify if the parents cannot agree. It is important to note that some consent orders or motions to modify are not granted, even if CSSD has calculated a possible new guideline amount at the review and adjustment conference. The decision to grant or deny a request for modification is at the discretion of the judge.
Modification (Adjustment) for Incarcerated Parents or Returning Citizens
Modification at the Sentencing Hearing
In 2005, the District of Columbia enacted a law entitled “Notice at Sentencing of Child Support Modification.” The law allows a parent, who has been ordered to pay support and who is being sentenced to 30 days or more for a criminal offense unrelated to child support, to seek a modification of that parent's child support order(s). The law also applies to a parent whose probation is being revoked and who is facing a sentence of 30 days or more.
The law does not automatically suspend support obligations when a noncustodial parent is sent to jail or prison; that parent must formally file a motion to modify the support order. The motion to modify must be filed at the time of sentencing or during imprisonment to affect ongoing support payments that come due while the parent is incarcerated. Also, if a modification is sought, it can only be granted for the period from the date of the motion's filing and forward. According to federal law, after being released from prison a parent may not ask the court to modify a child support order retroactively (that is, for an earlier period).
Also, a child support order may not be subject to modification if the parent is found to have the ability to pay support while incarcerated or if the parent is incarcerated for nonpayment of a child support order.
Post-Release Child Support
When a parent is released from jail or prison, that parent should contact CSSD immediately to provide a current address and updated financial information. If appropriate, CSSD will file a motion to reinstate child support. Depending on the paying parent's current financial circumstances, however, the order could be the same, higher, or lower.
For additional information, visit: Incarcerated and Returning Parents.