In any divorce involving minor children, a significant issue that must be addressed is child support. But the support order issued at the time of a divorce proceeding is not unalterable. Since parental resources and children’s needs change over time, child support is subject to modification. If you need help with a child support modification proceeding, the San Diego child support lawyers at Doppelt & Forney can assist you. We offer free in-person or virtual consultations on family law issues to parents in many Southern California communities.Under Which Circumstances Can Child Support be Modified?
In California, divorced parents are obligated to provide support for a minor child until the child is emancipated (per California Family Code Section 3901), which is usually at the age of 18 or when the child completes high school, unless a parent voluntarily agrees to provide support beyond that age. Child support cannot be waived, even if one parent has substantially more financial resources than the other, and even if one or both parents remarry.
The amount of support is determined by applying a specific formula, defined by California law, which takes into account each parent’s income and other factors. Some of these include the number of children, the amount of time that the child spends with the non-custodial parent, any spousal support paid through another marriage, any child support paid through another relationship, health insurance costs, union dues if applicable, and mandatory retirement benefits if applicable. This calculation is based on a single “snapshot” of the financial status of the parents at one point in time; however, this status is highly susceptible to change. For this reason, child support orders may be modified.
However, since child support is issued through a court order, modifications generally require court intervention and approval. Neither parent has a right to unilaterally depart from the order, even in cases involving abrupt events, such as the loss of a job, and even if no funds are available to provide support.
While both parents can mutually agree to a particular modification, the agreement must nevertheless be submitted to the court for approval. Without formal court action, the existing order remains in force.
The standard that a court applies is whether there has been a substantial “change in circumstances.” Such a change may be a result of:
- Loss of a job;
- Job promotion or demotion;
- Illness, injury, or disability of a parent or child;
- Incarceration of a parent;
- Change in custody; or
- Other changes in the factors that affect the calculation of support.
For example, a parent may not be able to obtain a downward modification if he or she has voluntarily taken a lower-paying job because the new position was less stressful, had better hours, or seemed more interesting. The court expects a parent to meet his or her child support obligation, and a court will even impute income to a parent if it concludes that a parent is not earning an income consistent with his or her “earning capacity.”
Since child support modification proceedings take time, any parent who encounters a problem should take action as soon as possible in seeking a modification. Even a “temporary” job loss may last longer than expected, and there is no guarantee that a new position will pay as much, or enable a parent to catch up on any arrears.Contact a Child Support Lawyer in San Diego for Comprehensive Guidance
If you need to pursue a modification of child support, legal advice is essential to help you assess what your options are and what the likely outcome will be. Failing to meet child support obligations can have serious implications for your ability to manage and protect your overall financial well-being. For a free in-person or virtual consultation with an attorney, contact Doppelt & Forney, APLC. Residents of San Diego, Carlsbad, Vista, Chula Vista, Oceanside, La Jolla, Point Loma, Ramona, Coronado, Del Mar, El Cajon, La Mesa, and nearby communities have benefited from the diligent representation of our child support lawyers. Call 800.769.4748 or contact us online to set up your appointment. We are also available if you need an attorney to address a spousal support dispute or another issue during a divorce.