In California, a change in child support must be approved by the court but it is possible to modify your child support order without stepping foot inside a court room. Parents may come to an agreement outside the courtroom, but they will still need to file a stipulation or request a change to the original order by filing a motion for modification with the court.
Child Support in California
Parents in California have a legal obligation to financially support their children, typically through the age of maturity (age 18). Sometimes a situation arises where the parent ordered to pay support cannot or does not want to continue paying. Some parents simply stop making the payments altogether.
California law does not look kindly on parents who fail to make their child support payments or who take it upon themselves to make a change in those payments without approval of the court or the person receiving support. If a change is required in child support due to a life event or situation, the law requires the paying parent follow proper legal procedures. If you do not have your order changed properly, this could mean financial ramifications for you down the road including losing your drivers license or passport.
Reasons for a Child Support Modification
California courts recognize there are many reasons why a child support order might need to be changed. The basis for modification is often referred to as a “change in circumstances.”
- One or both parents has had a change in income.
- A parent has lost their job.
- One parent has been incarcerated.
- There is now another child from another relationship.
- How much time the child spends with each parent has changed significantly.
- Costs for the child’s current healthcare, education, and/or childcare have increased.
The court will also consider a modification when any of the factors used to calculate child support have changed.
It’s crucial that anyone who anticipates or has a change in circumstances let the original family court know immediately that they need the child support order modified. If you’re the parent unable to make payments, ignoring the situation can have serious, negative legal consequences.
How to Get a Child Support Order Modified
You have several options for starting the modification process: contact a local child support agency, hire a family law attorney, or use the services of a family court law facilitator. No matter who you choose to ask for assistance, you’ll need the following information when requesting a modification
- Current income and expenses.
- Proof of childcare expenses.
- Medical insurance.
- Unemployment benefits.
- Retirement income.
- Disability information such as SSI, SDI, and SSA.
- Jail or prison status, if applicable.
- Current and proposed custody and visitation arrangements.
California courts generally believe a modification is in order when the change is either 20% or $50, whichever is less. Keep in mind that if the request is approved, the court will not apply the change to outstanding back payments. The new amount applies only to future support payments unless you agree otherwise.
If you and the other parent can amicably agree on the changed amount, you can sign an agreement or stipulation and submit it to the court for approval. If you cannot come to an agreement, the court will set a hearing date at which time the judge will review the request and, if she or he agrees with the changes, issue a new order.
Child support is ordered to ensure that children are taken care of after their parents no longer live together. There are many valid reasons for seeking a change in child support including the loss of a job, serious injury, or a change household income. It can be a complicated process, especially when the parents do not agree. A great way to start, even if you have reached an agreement, is to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process.