how to modify child support payments

Can I Change my Child Support Payments in California?

During a divorce in California, child support is often awarded to the parent who has the majority of custody. In paternity cases, child support may also be ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent after a legal determination has been made regarding who the father of the child is. Child support is normally paid until all children reach the age of 18, and the amount awarded is calculated using a complex formula that is based on a number of factors.
Some of the factors used to determine how much should be paid in child support in California include:
• The number of children;
• The income of each parent;
• How much time each parent spends with the child(ren);
• Health insurance premiums;
• Child care expenses;
• Other major expenses that impact the family finances.
After a divorce is finalized, the parties move on and life circumstances tend to change. One or both ex-spouses may decide to get remarried, one may go back to school to begin a new career, and the children will grow up into teenagers and eventually adults. Some changes in circumstances are significant and impact the financial status of the paying or receiving parent.
When is a Change in Circumstances Enough to Change Child Support Payments?
If you want to modify the child support payments you pay or receive in California, it must be approved by the court. Once a child support award has been set, it can be difficult to change later on. Courts are reluctant to make modifications to an existing support order, and in order to convince the court, you must show a significant “change in circumstances” since the issuance of the original order.
There are a number of significant life changes that may qualify for a child support modification. Some of the most common include:
• Job Losses: If the paying parent loses his/her job due to a disability, layoff, or termination, they may no longer have the financial means to pay the same level of support. Also, if the receiving parent was working and lost their job, they may have greater financial needs than when the original order was issued.
• Income Changes: In addition to job losses, other circumstances can affect the income of either the paying or receiving parent. For example, a job promotion for either parent can provide significantly higher income. If one parent is remarried, the addition of their spouse’s income can be significant.
• Incarceration: The incarceration of either parent is a significant change in circumstances that is likely to adversely impact the family’s financial situation. If one parent is jailed or institutionalized against their will for longer than 90 days, support payments are suspended automatically after the 90-day period elapses.
• New Child: If either parent has a new child from another relationship, this also has the potential to significantly impact the family’s financial situation.
• Changes in Parenting Time: Since one of the major factors in calculating support payments is the amount of time each parent spends with the child, a significant change in parenting time may be a strong basis for seeking a child support modification.
• Changes in the Child’s Needs: As children grow up, their needs can change and often become more expensive. Examples may include significant increases in health insurance premiums, child care expenses, and educational costs.
What Happens if I Don’t Obtain Court Approval?
After a significant change in circumstance, some parents decide to simply cut back on child support payments or cease paying them altogether. This is a huge mistake. There are severe consequences for non-payment of child support in California. The state has a number of enforcement mechanisms at its disposal. Some of the penalties you may face if you don’t pay the amount of support you owe include:
• Wage garnishments;
• Bank account seizures;
• Intercepting tax refunds, workers’ compensation benefits, or part of disability benefits;
• Driver’s license suspension;
• Suspension of a professional license;
• Negative/derogatory information on your credit report;
• Denial of a passport (if you owe more than $2,500 in back child support);
• Criminal sanctions.
Parents are allowed to work out child support modifications between themselves, but a verbal agreement is not enforceable. This means that if your ex decides to come after you later for back child support, you may still face harsh consequences. If you and your ex agree on a change in child support payments, you need to get it in writing and bring it before a judge for approval.
Speak with a Knowledgeable San Diego Child Support Modification Lawyer
In California, child support is serious business, and any changes must be brought before the court. To ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected during this process, it is best to work with an experienced family law attorney. At Garmo and Garmo, we understand the California child support guidelines, and what is needed to convince the court that the amount of support you are paying or receiving should be modified. For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our El Cajon office today at 619-441-2500.