You've reached the end of your child support trial, and the judge has handed down an order. Nonetheless, no child support case exists in a vacuum. After court, both you and the other parent will likely experience significant financial and other changes, good and bad. Fortunately, the laws of California allow for modifications of child support orders. Every case is the product of multiple factors, and the same is true for requests to modify court orders.
The family law attorneys of MacKay & Martin, LLP, are experienced in all aspects of child support modifications and will work with you to explain what options you have when life changes occur.
Acceptable Reasons for a Modification of Child Support
Either parent can ask the court to modify a child support order. If granted, a modification will alter the original terms to reflect the changes made. There are many reasons you may wish to request a modification. California's standard, when considering requests to modify, is that there must be a “significant change in circumstances” to necessitate a modification of the original court order.
The factors which may justify a modification of a child support order include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Either parent has experienced an increase or decrease in income
- A parent has lost his or her job
- A parent experiences a change in family size, for example, by having another child
- One of the parents is incarcerated
- One or more of the factors which were used to calculate child support have changed (e.g. parent's living expenses or health insurance premiums)
- The child's needs have changed, resulting in different costs (higher or lower) for healthcare, education, child care, etc.
- There have been changes in how much time the child spends with each parent
- The non-custodial parent is in the armed forces and gets deployed
- The non-custodial parent becomes disabled
- The non-custodial parent begins receiving veterans benefits, supplemental security income, or general relief
The court must be convinced that a change is “significant” before it will modify its prior order. For instance, a slight increase in income alone will probably not justify a modification. The judge must also be convinced that changes happen in good faith and are not done to avoid a responsibility to pay child support. For example, all things being equal, a job loss would generally be considered a significant change in circumstances. However, if the judge believes the parent responsible quit his or her job or has refused to get a new one, the judge may order that parent to continue paying the original amount.
Child Support Payments Are Required Until the Modification Is Finalized
It's important to remember that merely filing a motion to modify does not relieve a parent of his or her child support obligation. While the motion is pending, the originally ordered amount must still be paid. In addition, while a judge can backdate a modification to when the motion was filed, he or she cannot retroactively modify child support. This means that if you experience a significant life change, but wait to file a motion, the judge may only modify support starting from the date the motion was filed. For this reason, it's important to consult an experienced Los Angeles child support attorney to get your motion filed at the earliest possible date.
Do child support modifications require a trip to court?
In most cases, you will need to go to court to obtain your modification. But there are some ways to avoid this. Many child support orders in California include cost of living adjustment clauses which automatically adjust child support according to a certain economic factor. If your order contains this clause, it may not be necessary to go to court to change anything.
Also, in some cases, the parties can agree on modifying a prior order. If you and the other parent agree to your requested changes, you will not need to attend court. You will, however, need the judge to approve the changes and issue a new support order. Negotiating with the other parent can save time and money, and the attorneys of MacKay & Martin, LLP can help with this.
In order to request a modification, several important pieces of information must be presented to the court or child support agency. They include the following:
- Parents' income and expenses
- Child care expenses (e.g. daycare costs)
- Health insurance premiums for the child
- Disability benefits information (including SSI, SDI, etc.)
- The parent's incarceration status
- Unemployment benefits
- Retirement income
- Custody and visitation arrangements
Several forms of documentation may be used to verify the above information in court. For example, regarding your income, you may wish to present a pay stub or tax returns. In some cases, witnesses may be able to testify about the other parent having a new job or source of income. You should work with a qualified family law attorney to prepare and present your documentation.
Contact Our Los Angeles Child Support Modifications Attorney
There are three basic ways to modify child support in Los Angeles. First, you can request a review of the order by a child support agency. Second, you can ask the court directly for a modification, working with a Family Law Facilitator. Finally, you can get an attorney to petition the court on your behalf. There are detailed requirements for requesting a modification, so it's best to hire an attorney who is familiar with the court system.
Life goes on after child support court. If you have experienced a significant financial or other change, you may be able to obtain a modification. Similarly, if the other parent wishes to change the order, but you don't, you'll need to defend against a motion to modify. The dedicated attorneys at MacKay & Martin, LLP, can help with your case. Contact us today.