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How to Modify Child Support Payment

by Steve Fritsch on January 30, 2017

Child Support in California is covered by Family Code 4053 and covers the parent’s obligation to support their child in detail. This obligation is mutual and shared by both parties, but could vary based on ability, income and the time actually spent with the child. All decisions need to be made in the best interest of the child; any minor children should have the same standard of living as both parents. In some cases, child support is needed to improve the standard of living of the parent who has physical custody of the child.

By improving that parent’s living space and standard, the child has an improved standard of living as well. In most cases the parent with primary custody is assumed to already be directing a significant portion of resources to supporting that child. In some cases, the living situation, life circumstances or income of one or both parties can change. When this happens, an existing child support agreement may need to be modified to reflect the change in circumstances.

What Happens When You Need to Change the Support Agreement?

When you request a modification to the child support agreement in the state of California, you’ll receive information from the Child Support Services Department. Both parents will receive a request from the CSSD requesting financial status and similar information. This information is used to determine if a modification is truly appropriate and required.

Your family law attorney can help you determine if your circumstances or your former spouse’s circumstances warrant a change to the agreement and assist you with the process. During the process, the amount of child support could be increased, decreased or left the same, depending on the court’s findings.

What Happens When You Make a Request?

Once a request is made and approved, the new orders will begin on the date your attorney or your former spouse’s attorney filed for the modification. Usually it does not matter who filed or whether the order was requesting an increase or a decrease. There are a few exceptions, including:

  • Unemployment: The modification request can be made to match the date of unemployment tin some cases.
  • Change in income due to military service: Changes here are retroactive to the date of the change, based on federal law (42 U.S.C. Sec. 666(a)(9).
  • Reimbursement: The court could possibly order reimbursement of any retroactive amounts.

Change of Circumstances and Child Support

A change in child support request needs to include a reason, generally a change in circumstances since the previous order was made. If the original agreement was below the guideline amount, it can be changed without a change in other circumstances. Some typical circumstance changes include:

  • Changes in parenting time: Child custody changes and the amount of time the child spends with each parent could be cause for a modification request.
  • Changes in income: One parent gets a raise, gets a pay cut or loses a job, which may lead to a modification request.
  • Another child: One parent has an additional child from another relationship
  • The child’s needs change: Medical or healthcare changes or the discovery of a special need or disability could trigger a modification request.

The changes need to be significant enough to warrant a request. Changes that are minor or simply too small to have an impact will generally not result in a modification approval. Your attorney can help you determine which changes are significant enough to warrant a request.

Don’t Wait to Request a Change

If you wait to file a change request when the life circumstances have changed enough to warrant it, you could regret it. If you are the paying parent and have lost your job, the original order could no longer be feasible; you could even fall behind. If you are the parent who is receiving the support, the sooner you have the funds you need to improve your child’s quality of life, the better it will be for you both. Waiting only prolongs things and makes the process more stressful.

An Attorney Can Help

Child support requires complex calculations and has many considerations. An attorney can help you learn about the modification process and ensure that you and your child receive the best possible outcome. Contact us to learn more about modification and to talk about your specific details with an attorney; we’re here to make sure you and your child are treated fairly. We’re here to make sure you get the ideal outcome for your family and to ensure your rights are protected.

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