In a previous post I discussed how to get your child support reduced. In this post, I will explain how long it takes to modify child support. The rules and procedures I describe in this post will apply whether you are trying to reduce child support or trying to increase it.
If you make an agreement
If you and the other parent can agree to modify child support, you may write up the agreement, submit it to the judge, and have the judge sign it. The agreement will then become an order of the court. There is no law regulating the time when you need to make an agreement. You may make an agreement at any time, during any stage of the case. I’ve had clients who have made agreements with the other parent in the span of a few minutes.
I, and many other lawyers, encourage clients to make agreements precisely for this reason: often, when you make an agreement, the time frame will be shorter than if you go to court. You may also make an agreement after you’ve gone to court; many judges will encourage you to do this.
If you don’t make an agreement
You will first have to write up a motion to modify child support and file it with the court. You may need a lawyer to help you write up the motion, as the laws for how a motion is to be written are often complicated. After you file your motion with the court, you will have to serve the motion on the other parent. You must serve the other parent either by having a deputy sheriff or licensed process server personally deliver the motion, or by sending it to the other parent’s residence via certified mail.
After you serve the motion, the other parent has fifteen days to file a response to the motion. If they do not respond within fifteen days, the court may deem the motion “confessed” and you may be able to get your child support modified at that time. (Some judges, though, are queasy about granting motions simply because someone hasn’t responded. Judges are often generous about extending the time for which a person must respond to a motion.)
If the other parent responds to the motion within fifteen days, ask the judge for a hearing date. Often, the time it takes to get a hearing date varies depending on the size of the county you are in. In smaller counties, the judges can often give you a hearing date within a few weeks; in larger counties (where the courts are more congested) it may take you several months before you get in front of a judge.
At your first hearing in front of a judge, the judge could potentially hand down a ruling. However, the judge will often give you another date to come back. The judge may also order mediation in the interim. Mediation is a process where you and your attorney, and the other parent and his attorney if he has one, will meet with a mediator. The mediator will try to guide you toward a settlement. A mediator is not like a judge, in that he cannot order you to do anything. But he can try to soothe ruffled feathers and talk sense into people who are being difficult. For more information about mediation, click here.
If mediation is unsuccessful, or if the judge doesn’t order mediation, the judge may set the case for trial. Depending on the size of your county, and how crowded the judge’s docket is, it may take several months to get a trial date. In my home county of Washington County (population 52,000) it has sometimes taken my clients several months to get a trial date.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the trial may take a few minutes, a few hours, or even several days. At the trial, the judge will hear witnesses, admit evidence, and listen to arguments from both sides. When the trial is over, the judge may immediately issue an order on whether to modify child support. Or the judge may deliberate and issue an order later on. Some judges are known to take weeks or even months to reach a decision.
After the judge makes his decision, he will often order one of the attorneys to write up an order reflecting the decision. After the attorney writes the order, the attorney will have to submit it to the judge, after which the judge will sign the order if it accurately reflects the judge’s ruling. The judge also may order the attorney who drafts the order to send it to the opposing counsel for his signature.
Because lawyers are busy people, it may take additional time for the attorney in your case to prepare the order. I’ve known of cases where a lawyer has taken months to prepare the order.
But once the order is signed, it becomes a binding order of the court, and child support is now changed. The judge may specify that the order is retroactive (in which one parent may be required to make up the arrearage.)
If you file a motion to modify child support, the other parent may bring in other issues as well
In many cases, if one parent files a motion to modify child support, the other parent asks the court to change other issues. For example, child support is based on the amount of time each parent spends with the children. So, if one parent serves the other parent with a motion to modify child support, the other parent may counter with a motion to increase his custody time, so that he’ll have to pay less child support. If other issues are litigated, in addition to the motion to modify child support, then that may change the length of time that the case will take.
If the case is appealed
If you or the other parent don’t like the court’s ruling on child support, the aggrieved parent may appeal the case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. An appeal will greatly increase the amount of time your case will take. In every appeal case I have handled, the appeals court handed down its ruling 1 ½ to two years after the trial court made its ruling. Furthermore, after the appeal, the appeals court will often remand the case back to the trial court and order the trial court to take additional action in the case. This too, will increase the time your case will take.
Are you interested in modifying child support?
As can be seen above, modification of child support can be a very time-consuming process. You may want to consider whether it’s really worth pursuing. If you do want to pursue modification, you’ll usually be better off working out an agreement with the other parent, rather than fighting it out in court.
The Persaud Law Office has represented many parents in child support cases. We try to work out an out-of-court settlement whenever possible. If you want more information about modifying child support in your case, contact us today.
Cover photo taken from https://www.picpedia.org/financial-11/c/child-support.html. Licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/. Cover photo of calendar taken from https://openclipart.org/detail/339070/2023-calendar. Licensed under https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/.