One very common question I am asked is “when can I modify an existing child support order?” Either party may want to revisit the child support calculations to see if the order should change. Kansas law provides two times when child support can be modified. First, if it has been more than three years since the last modification or, second, if there has been a material change in circumstances. K.S.A. 23-3005.

Unfortunately, the statute does not explain what a “material change in circumstances” means. For this we have to look to the Kansas Child Support Guidelines. Guideline V of the Kansas Child Support Guidelines explains what is required for a material change in circumstances. First is says anything which would have traditionally been considered by the courts as a material change is still valid. So if the child switches residences or graduates high school, for example. Second, if the new support calculation changes the amount of child support by at least 10% it is defined as a material change in circumstances (the 10% rule). Changes in job status, insurance and day care costs, and income can all be included in this category. However, the Guidelines provide that termination from employment for cause, or incarceration, are not material changes in circumstance and cannot be the basis for a motion to modify. Third, if any child turns 6 or 12, the support order can be modified because Kansas uses three age brackets to calculate support: 0-5, 6-11 and 12-18. So “aging up” into a new bracket is a material change in circumstances. If a child is emancipated by the court or by state law (by enlisting in the military or getting married, for example), it is a material change.  Finally, failing to comply with a court ordered child support adjustment can be basis for a modification. For example, if one parent is given credit for parenting time sufficient to reduce their support obligation but stops actually exercising the parenting time the court can modify support even if it does not result in a 10% change.

So, either party can ask the Court to change the child support order if it has been more than three years since it was ordered, or if there has been a material change in circumstances. The most common material changes are the 10% rule resulting from a change in pay or insurance/day care costs, and aging up into a higher age bracket.