When a marriage ends in a divorce, part of the divorce settlement will often include child support payments. This is an amount paid by the non-custodial parent for the purpose of meeting the child’s day-to-day needs like food, shelter, education and healthcare.
A child support order, like any court order, is binding. This means that once the court directs you to pay child support, you must obey it. If you do not, you could face serious legal and personal consequences. However, there are situations when a modification may be necessary.
The judge must decide if your petition is valid
You cannot modify a child support order without the knowledge and approval of the court. The legal standards the judge will apply to your case strictly depend on the reasons for your modification request. Thus, to successfully petition for a modification, you must demonstrate to the court that your change in circumstances is genuine.
Here are two changes in circumstances that can justify the modification of an existing child support order:
Loss of employment or income
Losing your job or source of income can throw every aspect of your finances into disarray. And since child support arises from a court order, you will pay a heavy price if you fall behind on your child support payment. Your wage may be garnished, your driver’s license may be suspended and, in severe cases, you may go to jail.
Of course, citing unemployment may not necessarily lead to the approval of your modification for the petition. The court will expect you to keep looking for work. Also, your petition may not be approved if you voluntarily leave work to avoid paying child support.
Health problems too can impact your finances. Maintaining the same level of child support payment can be a tall order if you can no longer hold your job or work as many hours due to an illness. In this case, the court may be open to reviewing and modifying an existing child support order.
Every parent has a duty to provide for their child. Knowing how California family law works can help you safeguard your rights while modifying an existing child support order.