What You Need to Know About Amending the Terms of Child Support

A gavel sits atop a desk covered with money

As the lives of you and your child move forward, child support payments may require modification. The court system is flexible to this, but changes must be legally approved and meet certain requirements. In California, parents must demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances significant enough to warrant the modification.

Child support is a serious issue to California courts. If your situation has changed and you believe your child support structure needs to change as well, make a modification request sooner rather than later. Failing to pay — even for valid reasons — without informing the court of your situation can lead to a judge finding you in contempt of court.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at why you may need to change your child support arrangement, and the considerations to bear in mind as you move forward.

Reasons for Modifying Child Support

A major life change, personally or professionally, is often the main reason to amend the terms of child support. An adjusted income (either up or down) or the loss of a job is often seen by the courts as a valid reason to reassess child support. On a personal level, child support may shift if a parent is incarcerated, has a child from another relationship, or is going through a divorce.

A child’s needs also affect support costs — for instance, the need for extra educational support or the onset of a health problem that demands care. A shift in custody arrangements is also a reason to modify child support. If a child is now spending significantly more time with you than before, then the amount of child support you pay may drop in accordance with your additional responsibilities.

Courts may also make temporary child support changes to accommodate pressing matters such as a medical emergency, or a short-term shift in income for either parent as a result of a temporary disability or the occurrence of a natural disaster, for example.

Going About the Change

Unlike in some states where child support modifications can be made by opening a case at a local child support agency, California requires that a judge sign off on any changes, provided the shift totals either 20% or $50, whichever is less.

A child support agency can provide assistance in this process, but it is not the main place where issues are mediated. If there are disagreements with the change, a family attorney or a facilitator in Family Court are two other individuals who can offer support.

If parents and guardians are satisfied with the change amount, they can sign an agreement which will be approved by the court. If there is no agreement, it is up to a judge to decide for or against a change based on the information parents must submit. This information includes any documents that offer proof of finances (paystubs, unemployment benefits, etc.), medical and health information for the child, as well as custody and visitation agreements. These are all elements that will be considered when deciding if an amendment is appropriate, so it’s essential to keep up-to-date and accurate records.

Getting the Support You Need

Amending the terms of your child support is challenging to navigate alone, especially because each person’s personal situation is unique. It may be in your best interest to speak with an attorney about your situation.

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