Most parents that decide to file for custody or divorce understand the inevitability of one spouse being responsible for future ordered child support payments. However, few parents realize that once child support order is granted, it can be modified until your child is eighteen, as long as certain elements are met.
Child support modification is as complicated as the original complex child support calculation. Hiring an expert child support attorney before you attempt to file on your own is crucial. Very specific factors must be satisfied, if they are not, your petition is not only rejected, but the judge is likely to not give you any insight as to why it was rejected. You essentially have to start back at square one.
Working with an experienced child support attorney will ensure that the important elements are highlighted to the family court judges, your case is professionally handled, and that your voice is heard. We cover in this article the initial child support order, what specific elements trigger a necessary child support modification, and the process your child support attorney will calmly and expertly guide you through.
Child Support Defined
In order to understand what child support modification is, it is important to understand child support orders and the factors considered when the courts assign child support payments to a parent. The idea of child support came from the foundational belief in California that two parents brought a child into the world and two parents are emotionally and financially responsible for the child. The values of responsibility and morality are reflected in the state’s principles.
When a couple divorces or an unmarried couple files for custody, child support will also be ordered as part of the case. Your child support attorney will work with you to collect income documents and projected budgets to help you determine your financial need.
The California Department of Child Support Services provides a California guideline calculator to individuals, which can give a rough estimate as to the amount they may receive for child support or what they may have to pay the other parent for child support. The parent that has a lower income typically receives child support, while the parent that produces a higher income amount is responsible for paying child support.
Your child support attorney will also have access to a more detailed version of this software that produces a more accurate result, which can be introduced as evidence to the judge at your child support hearing. The evidence is referred to as the “guideline support” amount.
Under California Family Code section 4050-4076, a list of factors and guidelines are provided that illustrate the complex and confusing area of calculating and determining child support. These factors are part of the details entered into the above mentioned calculator.
Again, a very confusing process that is best left in the hands of a knowledgeable child support attorney. Once a child support value is ordered by the family court judge, the support order remains in effect until a modification is necessary.
Summary: In California, for separating or divorcing parents, child support is inevitable, complex, and confusing. Hiring a child support attorney can not only help with the initial child support order but can help you know when it’s time to ask for a modification and lessen the stress of the process.
When Child Support Modification Is Necessary
California law makes the reasons for child support modification fairly clear for litigants to understand and their child support attorney to argue and file on behalf of their client’s interests. While child support modifications are not unheard of, many parents to not understand their rights when it comes to asking for a modification.
Hiring a child support attorney to help you through the process, complete the required forms, collect necessary documents, and assist you at your child support modification hearing is essential to producing a successful outcome.
As mentioned previously, the guidelines that govern child support and allow for child support modification are found in California Family Code 4050 et seq. The following is a list of those situations where a child support modification is necessary:
- Increase or decrease in earnings by one or both parents (for example a new job, demotion, lay off, bonus check, remarries)
- Loss of employment
- Change in custody time (for example changing from 50/50 custody to 70/30 custody)
- Military enlistment or activation from the army reserves
- If one parent has a new child from a different partner
- Child’s needs changed (special needs, medical issues, education)
The most important aspect that you and your child support attorney must emphasize is that there has been such a significant change in the circumstances since the last custody order and that a child support modification is necessary.
An example of a significant change in circumstances is almost always when a parent loses a job. Because child support uses parent’s income as a factor in calculating child support, a drastic reduction in income would trigger the need to modify the previous order.
However, an example where a change of circumstance may not be found is one parent buying a house, because this is a financial change that is within the control of the parent. Much like quitting a job does not fall under a change in circumstance because the parent contributed to the change. A child support modification’s significant change in circumstance typically occurs when a serious life event happens outside the control of one or both parents.
Summary: There are many situations where a child support modification becomes necessary. The most important aspect that needs to be proven in the modification request is that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last order. These events could then require a review of the previous order and a modification in support.
Child Support Modification Process In California
The child support modification process can be relatively stress free when you have an expert advocate on your side. Your child support attorney will begin the process by completing the necessary forms with you and having you sign them. The initial forms will then be filed with the court and a hearing date and time will be assigned.
Your child support attorney will then serve the opposing party or their attorney with the initial filed papers and the hearing date and time. The other side will have a chance to respond to your filings and your attorney and opposing party will have a chance to plead both points in court to a family court judge.
If the required elements are met, specifically evidence showing a substantial change in circumstances, then the judge may rule on the petition then. Usually the family court judge will consider each side’s pleadings and make a ruling later, typically no later than a month. Your child support attorney handles the majority of the work and the steps required in the process, so you can rest assured your interests are well represented without having to manage the case on your own.
Summary: The child support modification process is generally straight forward. Your child support attorney is an incredible asset during this time because they will supervise the complete execution of your case, allowing any tension you may have to fade away. They will handle form completion, filings, service of process, and represent you in court.
Contact An Experienced And Skilled Divorce Attorney In Order To Receive A Timely And Necessary Child Support Modification
Child support is an important part of the custody and divorce process. Child support is in place for the welfare of the child, to make sure the child is financially provided for, and that the child’s way of life does not become dramatically affected as a result of the separation. California’s policy is that both parents take emotional and financial responsibility of their child.
Child support modification does become necessary when certain conditions are met. It is imperative that you enlist the help of an experienced child support attorney when preparing your child support modification request. The specific elements that must be mentioned and outlined in the petition are expertly known by skilled child support attorneys, as well as the proper process that must be followed in order to achieve a successful result.
If you believe you are in a situation where a child support modification is necessary, contact divorce attorney Bruce A. Mandel as soon as possible. Follow us on our Facebook page Bruce Mandel Family Law, and reach us at (424) 250-9130 with any questions you may have. With almost three decades of advocating on the behalf of clients in the family law field, you can rest assured your case will be expertly represented.