Divorced persons in New Mexico often wonder whether an order for child support can be changed. A custodial parent may experience a decrease in income and need additional child support from the non-custodial parent. In the converse situation, a non-custodial spouse may want a reduction in his or her child support obligation because of unexpected financial adversity. Fortunately, the laws of New Mexico provide explicit procedures for amending an order for child support.

The most critical requirement is that the former spouse seeking a change in a child support order must demonstrate “material and substantial changes in circumstances” subsequent to entry of the original order. If application of the state’s child support guidelines to the new circumstances would require an upward or downward modification of 20% or more, the new circumstances are presumed to be material and substantial. The person seeking the modification must bring a motion before the court presenting the evidence and arguments for the requested increase or decrease. The motion must be served on the adverse party and filed with the court. Most such motions are referred to child support hearing officers for a hearing and decision.

A somewhat different procedure is used for children who are subject to Title IV-D of the federal Social Security Act. The New Mexico Department of Human Services has the power to amend or modify child support orders upon the request of either of the child’s parents. The Department is authorized to collect evidence from both parties, to hold a hearing and issue a determination if the support order should be modified. If the agency finds adequate grounds for recommending modification of the order, it shall present its findings to the court in a motion for modification of the previous order.

Because modification of an order for child support requires a formal motion to the court, the services of a lawyer who specializes in divorce and family law is usually necessary to either make the motion or oppose it. An initial consultation with such an attorney can provide an overview of the procedure, the kinds of evidence that are necessary and a review of possible outcomes.

Source: New Mexico Statutes Article 4, Dissolution of Marriage, Sections 40-4-11.4 and 40-4-11.5