Life and its circumstances are always changing. Unfortunately, child support orders don’t automatically adjust with other changes in a family’s life. Many parents require a modification in their child support order for a variety of reasons related to changes in their financial situations or a child’s needs. In these cases, either the payer or the payee may request a change. This process requires a hearing to prove why the change is appropriate unless both parties can agree on terms and file a stipulated agreement with the court. When parents aren’t able to agree on the modification with or without the help of a local California child support agency, they will receive a notice to appear in court so the court can review the request.
In What Circumstances are Child Support Modifications Considered Appropriate?
California family courts consider the best interests of a child as their top priority and make careful judgments when determining child support amounts. However, some unavoidable life changes may require a modification to an initial child support order. Some circumstances the courts may consider appropriate for a modification include the following, whether you are the payer or payee:
- You were laid off or fired from a job
- You moved to a new job or position with higher pay or took an additional job
- Your income increased or decreased
- The other parent’s income increased or decreased
- Primary custody and visitation plans changed
- Family size changed
- You joined the military
- You’ve become disabled or experienced a severe illness or accident with life-changing impairments
- You’ve been jailed or imprisoned
There may be other reasons your circumstances have changed as well as the common reasons above. It may benefit both parents to consult a California family attorney before seeking a child support modification.
Proving Significant Changes in Finances in Court
California courts and local child support agencies require proof of significant changes, such as the above circumstances, in order to consider modifying child support orders. The parent requesting the modification must provide the following:
- Proof of income and monthly expenses
- Proof of childcare costs and child expenses
- Proof of disability status or life-changing illness
- Proof of jail/prison status
- Proof of any unemployment or retirement benefits
- Documents showing your current child support, custody, and visitation arrangements
It’s left to the petitioning party to prove any substantial change in the financial situation of either party. Remember, the existing order must stand until a judge approves the modification whether it’s decided between the parents or in a courtroom. This means the paying party must abide by the original order until the change is official even if there has been a verbal agreement between parents.
If a local agency denies a request for modification, either parent may still go to court so a judge can review the evidence and make a decision.
Child Support Modifications Don’t Have to Be Permanent
Often, a significant financial change is only temporary. In this case, either parent may request a temporary child support modification. A child support agency or a court judge may temporarily modify a child support order in certain circumstances, such as a child’s medical emergency, a medical emergency experienced by either parent, or temporary job loss.
Remember, local child support agencies in California exist not only to help the recipient in child support cases but also to keep payers from falling behind on their payments when their circumstances have changed.