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Pennies and nickels resting on a document that reads "Child Support Agreement"

Modifying a Child Support Order

When Circumstances Necessitate a Change

After a judge orders child support, the life circumstances of either party named may change to the point where the order needs to be updated. Modifying a child support order is certainly a possibility, but in order to do so, you must meet specific requirements. Here is what you need to know regarding modifying child support orders in California.

When Modification Is Allowable

In order to seek a modification to an existing child support order, the person seeking modification must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances that render the existing support order unworkable. Common examples of a significant change in circumstances include the following reasons:

  • Either parent has lost employment.

  • Either parent has had a change in their income.

  • Either parent has been incarcerated.

  • A parent that is currently in another relationship has a child.

  • The needs of the child have changed (such as the need for child care or education).

  • The time a parent is able to spend with the child has changed.

Note that if the existing child support order came about through an agreement on the part of the parents (and the order was approved and signed by a judge), it might be a little more difficult to get the order changed shortly after its entry. This is because, if the parties thought it was okay when they agreed to it, there will need to be a significant change to get it changed. There is also the concept that one is always entitled in California to a “guideline child support order,” which makes some people believe there does not need to be proof of a change in circumstances. While conceptually that may be correct, practically speaking, unless a lot of time has passed between the entry of the stipulated order and the request to change it, you should still be prepared to show a change in circumstance.

How Modification Works

How a child support order is modified depends on if the parents are able to come to an agreement on the change. If they are able to agree on the change, then the parents can simply write up the terms as a new stipulation to their child support agreement and turn it into a judge, who will sign it and make it an official order. If the parents are not able to agree, then one of the parents must file a request for modification with the court, where the parent seeking the change will have to show the significant change in circumstances that warrant the modification.

Remember, until a modification is signed and approved, the existing court order for child support is still in effect, meaning the payor must still pay the original child support amount.

Consulting a Child Support Attorney

Every parent has a duty to support their children, and child support cases can be filled with tension and heated emotions. Because of the sensitive nature of child support matters, it’s important that anyone trying to handle these issues consult with a family law attorney who can help navigate through these issues and find the best possible resolution.