Los Angeles Child Support Modification Lawyer
Despite the breakdown of a marital relationship where children are involved, the non-custodial parent still has a legal obligation to support minor children under California law.
After a court enters a child support order, there may come a time when one or both parents, for a variety of potential reasons, wish to modify child support. If you are seeking to modify a court's child support order, our experienced Los Angeles child support modification attorneys can help by filing the necessary petition with the appropriate California court.
After a family court judge has made a child support order, one or both parents can request a change in the order. A parent seeking a change in child support will have to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances that would justify the change in child support.
In other words, you will need to show that there has been a material change in circumstances. Suppose your weekly income has been slightly reduced. In that case, it would not justify a change in support. The final decision of whether the circumstances have significantly changed is up to the family court judge. The court's decision is reversible only if discretion has been abused.
Usually, becoming unemployed will be considered a significant change in circumstances that would justify changing a child support order. Notably, however, sometimes people will become unemployed voluntarily. For example, suppose a judge believes a parent is intentionally avoiding work. In that case, they could order that parent to continue paying support as if they were still employed.
Suppose a judge ordered an amount of support below the amount specified in the state guidelines. In that case, a parent can seek a change in support without showing a change in circumstances.
Child support can't be changed retroactively, meaning if the conditions change, but you wait several months to request a modification, the judge might not order an adjustment in child support payments going back to the date of the change.
A family court judge can only modify support starting from the date the motion seeking modification is filed, as defined under California Family Code 4009. This means you should request a child support modification as soon as circumstances change.
When you go to the family court to reduce a child support order, you need to understand there is a chance that the judge will not only deny your request but might increase it.
Judges will consider evidence presented by both sides. Perhaps you were unaware that the other parent also had changed circumstances. A family court judge will always try to ensure the children have sufficient funds for their well-being based on the mandatory child's best interest policy. It's not about you or the other parent.
To seek a change in child support, a parent has to file a motion for modification with the court (Form FL-300). Hiring a qualified family law attorney will typically increase your chances of obtaining a positive outcome.
What Are the Child Support Guidelines?
California courts use a series of guidelines, called Child Support Guidelines to arrive at the amount of the non-custodial parent's child support obligation.
These guidelines take into account the incomes and financial circumstances of each parent, as well as the financial needs of the children, among other factors. When one spouse remarries in California, the remarriage does not directly impact any existing child support orders.
In California, the Child Support Guidelines are not set in stone. Therefore, a judge has discretion to deviate from the Guidelines on a case-by-case basis.
After a California court determines an appropriate amount of child support and memorializes that number in a child support order, that order may be subject to future modification based upon a material change in the parties' circumstances.
What Are the Grounds for Child Support Modification?
If a judge enters a child support order for an amount below the amount referenced in the Child Support Guidelines, a party may seek a modification of that amount at any time – without needing to demonstrate anything else. In cases where the child support order was not below the amount required by the guidelines, changing a child support amount decision is based upon whether or not there was a "material change in circumstances" in the life of the parents or the children.
In some cases, a subpoena may be needed. Speak to a Los Angeles child support modification lawyer at our law firm for more information.
Some examples of a material change in circumstance that may warrant a child support modification or termination include the following:
- Change in one or both of the spouses' incomes, including one spouse's loss of employment;
- One parent has found or lost their job;
- Incarceration of one of the spouses;
- One spouse having another child from a different relationship, becoming a stepparent;
- Extraordinarily high income;
- Changes in the child's personal or educational needs, including changes in child care, health, or education-related costs and expenses;
- Significant changes in the amount of time the child spends with each parent;
- Financial needs of the child have changed;
- Any factors that were used to initially calculate child support have changed.
The Los Angeles County Child Support Services website has useful information in its article titled "Overview - Modify My Order."
What Are the Procedural Steps?
If both parties can agree upon a child support modification, they can memorialize that agreement into a written stipulation which must be signed by a family court judge. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement about the amount of child support, one of the parties must file a motion for modification of child support with the court, after which time a family court judge will consider some or all of the above-referenced factors.
The motion called a "Notice of Motion for Simplified Modification of Order" is Form FL-390.
How Can You Prepare for the Child Support Modification Hearing?
If you are the parent asking the family court for a change in child support, you must give them some evidence showing a change in circumstances. In other words, you can't walk into the court and tell the judge your circumstances have changed.
Some examples of how you can show the court there has been a change in your income include the following:
- Notice of employment termination;
- Copy of a recent unemployment check;
- Employment paystubs;
- Recent tax return;
- Witness testimony.
Can You Modify a Child Support Order Without Going to Court?
Working out an agreement with the other parent is typically the best option, but only sometimes possible.
If you and your former spouse mutually agree, you can modify a child support order without appearing before a judge.
If you need help reaching an agreement with your spouse, you can ask for assistance from a family law facilitator. They are mediators between you and your spouse to help you get a deal. However, they do not have the authority to decide on changing a child support order.
Suppose you and your spouse get together and agree to modify child support. In that case, you must write the deal and ask the judge to sign it so it can be enforced if the other parent decides later not to comply. Again, you should retain a Los Angeles child support lawyer for advice and agreement writing.
If a family court makes a new child support order, even based on a mutual agreement between the parents, you must fill out a new Child Support Case Registry Form (FL-190). This form aims to put your case in a national registry to help enforce child support later.
Do You Need an Attorney to Modify an Existing Child Support Order in California?
If you are considering asking for or changing child support, you may wonder whether it is worth the time and expense of retaining a Los Angeles divorce attorney.
You may believe that you can “work it out” with your child's other parent or that the court will agree with your position based on its merits.
While it is certainly possible to come to an agreement with your child's other parent without the representation of an attorney or make your case in court, it is important to keep in mind that the representation of a divorce lawyer can have a significant impact on the outcome of a child custody dispute.
When you retain a family law lawyer, they will communicate with your child's other parent on your behalf. This can facilitate constructive communication, which can be difficult for individuals who were once romantically involved.
Furthermore, judges may not share your opinion regarding what does or does not constitute a “material change in circumstances.” An attorney can represent you in court, argue your case, and present evidence that supports your contention that an existing order should or should not be modified.
Contact a Los Angeles Modification of Child Support Attorney
The needs of every family change over time, and child support modifications are fairly common. Our experienced Los Angeles child support lawyers will be able to review all of the facts and circumstances of your case and assist you with taking the necessary legal actions to modify a standing child support order.
We have over 25 years of combined experience helping parents modify child support orders. We can examine your situation and give you an honest assessment of how to best move forward.
To schedule a free consultation, contact our law office to speak with a Los Angeles child support modification attorney at Furman & Zavatsky. Call 818-528-3471.