Any parent who is a party to a child support order can request to have the order modified if they experience a significant change in their life. These new circumstances may be affecting their income and their ability to pay for child support.
However, courts in California only approve a child support modification request under specific circumstances. For instance, the courts must determine whether the new circumstances significantly affect the child support amount on the current order.
In this article, you’ll find out more about the changes that qualify for a child support modification in the state of California. You’ll also learn the exceptional circumstances for modifying child support without going to court.
What Is Child Support Modification?
A child support modification is a request by a child’s parent or legal guardian to increase or decrease the amount of child support as ordered by the court. Generally, the court considers this request if it determines that there has been a substantial change in a parent’s income or the child’s needs.
A child support modification can either be permanent or temporary. The former occurs when the changes in circumstances have a long-term effect on the non-custodial parent’s income. For example, if the parent becomes disabled and is no longer capable of working or earning as much as they did before the disability.
On the other hand, a temporary modification may occur when the child or parent experiences an unexpected change in their needs. For example, the child or parent may have a medical emergency that takes up more money.
You don’t need to go to court to determine the new child support amount. If there’s an agreement between you and the other parent, you’ll only need approval from a judge to make the changes on the child support. Additionally, if the original amount of child support is lower than the state’s guidelines, you or the other parent can request a modification to increase the amount at any time.
Common Reasons for Requesting a Child Support Modification
The courts in California may approve a child modification order if:
- the income of either parent had changed due to reduced working hours or a new job;
- either parent has been sentenced to jail or deployed in the military;
- either parent has had another child from a different relationship;
- the child visitation or custody terms have significantly changed;
- the child’s care, education, and healthcare needs have significantly changed;
- one parent has lost their job;
- there has been a general change in the factors used to calculate child support.
Should You Request a Child Support Modification in California?
Even though you may have experienced a change in certain aspects of your life, it’s not always necessary to request a change in child support. And, if you do, the court must verify whether the change is substantial before approving your request. For this reason, the court will need supporting evidence to determine the changes to implement on the child support order.
For example, you’ll need to provide proof of your
- income and expenses;
- unemployment benefits;
- disability status if applicable;
- medical insurance;
- retirement income;
- current custody and visitation arrangement
Generally, the court may grant the modification request if the changes in circumstances make a difference of either 20% or $50 on the current child support amount. However, it’s not always true that the court will increase or reduce the amount as per the modification request.
In some cases, the court may decide to reduce the current child support amount instead of raising it or vice versa. This may happen when the court identifies more than one change in circumstance affecting the calculation of the child support order.
For example, you may have requested the court to reduce the child support amount because of an income reduction. However, the court may also find out that the custodial parent also experienced significant changes in circumstances that lowered their income. As a result, they may not have enough money to support the child’s needs without your help. In such a situation, the court may decide not to reduce the child support amount or increase it instead.
How to Request a Child Support Modification in California
The steps to request child support modification in California begin with completing the necessary forms, including:
The next step is to file the completed forms with the court clerk. Note that some filing fees are applicable in different counties in the state. However, if a local child support agency files on your behalf, you won’t require the filing fees.
Before filing, make copies of these forms and have the court clerk stamp them as filed before serving the other parent. You must ensure that the other parent is served and in the correct manner.
You also need to include a Responsive Declaration to Request for Order and an Income and Expense Declaration for the other parent to complete. Then, serve the local child support agency if they aren’t involved in the case.
The court clerk will inform you about the date of mediation, which you must attend.
After serving the other parent and the agency, you must file Proof of Service by Mail to confirm that all the important stakeholders are aware of the case.
Tips for Requesting a Child Support Modification in California
It’s difficult to determine whether the court will increase or reduce the child support amount without recalculating the value of the change in circumstance. For this reason, here are some tips to help you evaluate whether a child support modification request is worth it.
- Talk to the family law facilitator in your court to find out the possible outcomes of the request. The facilitator can help you file the motion to request the child support modification and process the paperwork needed.
- You can also use the California Guideline Child Support Calculator to estimate the new amount.
- Find out what the other parent’s income is, or if they’ve had any significant change in circumstances that may affect the calculation of child support amount.
Speak to an Experienced Marin County Child Support Lawyer Today to Get Your Questions Answered
If you have questions about your legal rights and obligations pertaining to child support, Castro Law Offices is ready and able to help.
Castro Law Offices is a premier California law firm specializing in child support issues, divorce, child custody, and all other issues concerning domestic relations. Castro Law Offices is based in Novato, California, but is ready and able to provide legal services and advice to clients in and around Marin County including Novato, San Rafael, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Sausalito, Larkspur, West Marin, Ross, Mill Valley and Corte Madera. Contact Castro Law Offices today to schedule a confidential consultation.