Many parents know that payment of child support is often a delicate topic because the parent receiving the support may depend heavily on receiving it each month. In turn, the parent paying the support may have a tough time making ends meet and still managing to pay their monthly child support obligation.
In New Mexico, child support is computed according to the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines, which calculate child support using either a Worksheet A or a Worksheet B, depending on the parents' timesharing arrangement.
The amount of monthly child support is calculated based on the parents' combined gross income, after giving parents credit for any work-related daycare expenses and the cost of providing health insurance. The guidelines and support calculator are available in the family law section of the New Mexico Court website at http://www.nmcourts.gov/.
In New Mexico, child support is mandatory and parties can only agree to deviate from the New Mexico Child Support Guidelines for good cause. Often, a judge will not approve a divorce decree or parenting plan that does not include a Child Support Worksheet.
If a parent who is obligated to pay child support loses their income, then that parent is still responsible for child support as ordered by the Court. Paying parents may have a variety of reasons that makes them unable to continue paying the support obligation as ordered by the court. In some cases a parent is laid off or fired and they may not be able to find a new job earning the same income as their previous job, or may not be able to find employment at all. In others, the paying parent cannot continue to work because of injury or illness.
Parents who find themselves unable to pay their child support obligation must immediately file a motion to modify their child support in order to reflect their change in income. However, regardless of the circumstances, a parent cannot unilaterally reduce support or stop paying support entirely. The parent must file to modify the support order before reducing or stopping any payments.
Until the support order is modified, the parent will still owe the full amount of support under the existing order. If the support order is not modified and the parent fails to pay, the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the New Mexico Human Services Department can use several collection methods to enforce child support orders including intercepting the tax refund of the spouse that is supposed to be paying support, seizing their bank accounts, suspended driver's and professional licenses, and asking the court for an order of contempt and jail time.
The New Mexico statutes provide that a court may modify a child support obligation if the parent can show a "material and substantial change in circumstances" occurred after the entry of the child support order. There is a presumed "material and substantial change" when more than one (1) year has passed since the entry of the last support order and when the parents' current circumstances, including incomes and timesharing arrangements, would result in the monthly child support payment going up or down by at least twenty percent (20%). The statues also provide that either parent can request financial information yearly from the other spouse to determine whether their income has changed substantially.
It is advisable to file motions to modify support as soon as possible because support will only be retroactively modified to the date of the filing of the motion, not before. In any case, anyone seeking modification should contact an attorney experienced in child support matters.
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