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Modifications of Child Support

Child support payments are calculated based on equations that factor in many variables, including the earnings of both parents, the number of children, and the amount of parenting time each parent has with the children. In most cases, parents ordered to pay child support will be required to pay until the child who has attained the age of 18 years, is a full-time high school student, and who is not self-supporting, until the time the child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19 years, whichever occurs first. Of course, a lot of significant life changes can occur in the time between the order for child support being entered, and the child reaching their 18th birthday.

Some life changes, such as career advancement, lost jobs, additional children, and changes in parenting time might make an order that made sense at the time it was entered impractical several years later. It is important to know when and how you can change the amount of child support you pay or receive.

What scenarios can lead to a modification of child support?

Sometimes the original child support order was not correct. You might realize that the calculations were wrong and that it resulted in you paying too much, or the other parent not paying as much as they ought to be. In this situation, a modification can be completed.

Another scenario that can lead to a modification of child support is when a custody arrangement changes. Imagine that the other parent had the children two-thirds of the time because your job required you to travel frequently. Now your role at work changed so that you are no longer required to travel regularly. The percentage of time the children spend at your residence is now greater than the amount of time they spend at the other parent’s home. Here you might be able to modify both your custody and visitation orders along with the child support orders so that you were not paying as much as you had been when the other parent was the primary caregiver and was responsible for most of the child-related costs.

Changes in income can also lead to modifications of support. If the other parent has been climbing the corporate ladder, and now earns three times as much as when the initial order was entered, it might be time to modify support so that the other parent pays more, you pay less or both. On the other hand, if you lost your job, you might be able to reduce or even stop your child support payments. This can be tricky though because if you are voluntarily not working, or being underemployed, a court can impute an income on you, and require you to pay based on what you reasonably could be making rather than what you are making. If you are not working because you were fired, and you are diligently working to get a new job, but have not found one, or if you have serious health problems or an injury that makes it impossible for you to work as much as you did, then you have a legitimate reason to lower your payments.

Other causes for reductions include having another child, changes in the child’s needs or a parent becoming incarcerated.

How do I modify my child support payments?

To modify child support, you have to have a new order entered by the court. If both parents agree to a modification, this can be written as a stipulation and submitted to the court for review and approval. If the parents do not agree, the parent requesting the change must file a motion with the court, and the judicial officer will decide whether to allow the modification after hearing both parties positions.

It is important to remember that modifications are not always retroactive, and do not go into effect until a new order is entered by the court. For this reason, if you need to modify your child support order, you should act quickly.

Child custody and child support issues can be complex and emotionally charged. At Milligan, Beswick, Levine, & Knox, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help serve as your advocate and help you navigate the process. Contact us today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.