California Child Support Modification
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
In California, child support is typically the legal obligation of a parent to a child through the child's age of maturity (age 18). There may be instances over the years of providing support where one parent cannot or does not want to continue to pay the support. Some parents will simply cease making the necessary payments. However, California law does not treat non-payment or change in payment of child support kindly. Should there be any life event or situation that requires a change in the level of support that the non-custodial parent pays for his/her child, it is important to go about making this change under the proper legal procedures.
In California, child support modification must be worked out between the two parents and approved by the court.
"Changed Circumstances" in California
Changes in child support orders can be made if the person requesting the change can show a "change in circumstances" that necessitate altering the child support order. Examples of a change in circumstances that would warrant changing a child support order are:
- The income of one or both parents has changed;
- One parent is incarcerated;
- One parent has lost his/her job;
- One parent had a child from another relationship;
- The child's needs have changed.
It is very important that anyone who has had, or anticipates, a change in circumstances such as those listed above, let the appropriate family court know immediately in order to have their child support modified. If a parent is ever unable to make a payment, the best advice is typically to not ignore the payment or let it slide as that can have very negative consequences.
Courts will not retroactively change the amount of support that was owed. In other words, courts tend to change future child support payments, but not back payments. As a result, if possible, it is best to get a jump start on the process of modifying child support before any difficulties meeting support payments arise.
Modifications: Required Information
In order to change a child support order, some options are to contact a local child support agency for assistance, hire a local family law attorney, or go to a family court where a family law facilitator may be able to help as well. The following information will be needed when requesting a modification:
- Parent's income and expenses;
- Child care expenses;
- Medical insurance;
- Disability information if applicable (SSI, SDI, SSA, etc.);
- Jail or prison status if applicable;
- Unemployment benefits;
- Retirement income;
- Custody and visitation arrangements.
Generally, a modification will be in order if the change to child support required (based on all the information supplied above) is 20 percent or $50, whichever is less. If the parents can agree on the amount of change, they can sign an agreement stating so and bring it to the court where the order can be changed. Otherwise, it will be necessary to get a date for a hearing at which time, a judge will review the request and all information and sign the modified order if he/she grants the change.
Talk to a local family law attorney if you need representation or just have questions about California child support modification.
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