Over time, people and situations can change dramatically. Think of where you were in your life a few years ago. Now think about five years ago and 15 years ago. Chances are you are in a very different place today than you were at any of those points. Divorce, marriage, health problems, job changes and moves are just a few things that California families regularly go through.
In light of these changes, court orders, including orders for child support, can be changed if they are based on outdated conditions. If you are in a situation where an original court order is no longer appropriate, you have the option to seek a modification of the support for a more relevant, up-to-date order.
Seeking a modification can be more complicated than you expect. In order to make the process a little easier, you can take the following steps.
- Discuss the situation with the other parent: In some cases, you can work out a proposed modification between yourselves. Once you come up with an agreement, you can write it up and have a judge sign off on it. If this is not possible, you may pursue litigation and obtain a decision from a judge. If you do go forward with an agreement like this, make sure you get the agreement in writing and filed with the court. Verbal agreements do not hold up against an outdated support order.
- Make sure you take action: If you are the party paying support and you are no longer able to pay the originally ordered amount, you are obligated to continue paying the ordered amount until ordered otherwise. Therefore, it is crucial for parties that are no longer able to maintain their support obligation to file a request for modification of the support with the court as soon as possible.
- Continue to make payments as best as you can: Seeking a modification is not permission to fall behind on current payments. If you stop making payments or pay less than what has been ordered, the courts may view this as a problem of delinquency, rather than legitimate need, and they will most likely never consider relieving you of any accumulated back-pay.
- Document the changes prompting the request for modification: Whether you have lost a job, suffered a medical event, moved or had a change in your parenting time, it will be essential that you have documentation of these situations and how they affect you financially. Failure to do so can make it difficult for a court to verify the justification for modification.
There are many factors regarding each party that go into a support order, such as their tax filing status, their taxable income, their nontaxable income, and any health insurance premiums - to name only a few. Preparation on your own is vital but legal representation can also prove to be essential when it comes to navigating the family legal system and ensure you avoid a costly mistake.
Source: FindLaw.com, "Child Support Modification Tips," accessed on Feb. 22, 2016