As a parent, you want to make sure your children have the best possible care. You want to ensure they are clothed, fed, adequately educated, and given all the tools necessary for a bright and healthy future. Regardless of your relationship with your child’s other parent, you both have certain legal responsibilities to provide for your children. Every family is unique, but the family court’s number one priority is always to protect the best interests of your children.
Depending on whether you are the higher-earning parent or the one who offers the most parenting time, you may have to pay or receive child support as a condition of your divorce. However, as time goes on, you may experience any number of changes in your financial situation has changed, such as a job loss or reduced income. If you are having a difficult time making child support payments, you can request a modification of the original agreement to reflect your current circumstances. A family law attorney who specializes in legal modifications can guide you through this process and help you achieve the optimal outcome in your case.
When Should I Request a Modification to Child Support?
The family court considers the following changes to be potentially valid reasons for a modification request:
- A change in employment – If you are demoted, given fewer hours, lose your job through no fault of your own, are forced to work in a lower-paying industry, become disabled, or are deployed to active military service, these changes can significantly impact your ability to pay child support.
- A change of income – A child support agreement ordered during a divorce may not take into consideration any changes in income that you have experienced since then. An income change may result from a job loss or pay cut but can also include a pay raise, additional income from another source, or an inheritance.
- A change in parenting time – If there has been a sudden and unexpected change in custody or parenting time, such as your ex-spouse moving out of state after the divorce was finalized or you develop an illness that prevents you from caring for your child, the court may modify the amount you are expected to pay or your visitation agreement.
- A change in living expenses – Purchasing a new home or incurring expensive medical bills can increase your living expenses, and the court may take this into consideration.
- A change in family size – If you have another child with a new spouse or adopt a child, the court may change your child support agreement to accommodate the added expenses of raising this child.
- A change in the cost of living – The court can modify support if there has been a significant change in the cost of living. This can be due to inflation, deflation, or an increase in rent/housing costs for your area.
- One parent goes to jail – If your child’s other parent is incarcerated, the court may modify your child support agreement to make up for this loss of income.
- A change in the child’s needs – As your child grows, their needs increase, particularly in terms of education, childcare, and health care. If your child attends a private school, participates in extracurricular activities, receives medical care for a new illness or condition, or needs special support or therapy for a physical or learning disability, these factors can all impact child support payments.
What Proof Do I Need for a Child Support Modification?
When you file a petition to modify child support, the court will review all your financial information to make sure that it is accurate. This includes:
- Proof of Income – If you have recently lost your job or received a pay cut, you will need to provide your last three months of pay stubs and a letter from your employer explaining the reduction as evidence to support a modification request.
- Custody Arrangement History – You must prove that your custody arrangement was stable prior to the modification request by providing a copy of your most recent custody arrangement and noting any changes that have been made since the court last reviewed it.
- Child Care Expenses – If you are paying childcare to work, the court will want proof of your current childcare costs and how many hours per week you are working.
- Tax returns – The court will need copies of all filed tax returns, including those for your spouse and any children who are not the subject of this request.
- Unemployment Benefits – If you are receiving unemployment benefits and the court has ordered that this income is not to be included in your child support payments, then you will be expected to show proof that you receive these benefits.
- Rent/Housing Costs – If you request that the court consider your housing costs as a reason for your modification, you will need to provide information on your current rent/mortgage, including how much you are paying in total.
- Medical expenses – If there have been any recent medical expenses or changes to your healthcare, you will need to show documentation of these costs.
How Do I Modify Child Support in California?
When the court reviews a modification request, they will first consider whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original child support agreement was ordered. If so, then it is up to the judge to decide whether said changes warrant a modification. The court will also look for any evidence that one party has unjustly profited at the expense of another party. For example, if one parent fails to disclose their full income, this would unfairly reduce their child support payments and place a disproportionately larger burden on the other parent.
In some cases, courts have modified child support payments based on who was primarily caring for children before the divorce if they do not live with both parents equally after the divorce. Additionally, courts have approved modified agreements when the recipient spouse provides appropriate documentation about how they will use the increased child support to support the best interests of their child.
Connect with Paula. D. Kleinman to Start Your Modification Today
If you have a child support agreement in place and would like to request a modification, contact Paula D. Kleinman today. Paula has been practicing family law for over 20 years and can provide expert legal representation to help you achieve the best results in your case. Many divorced couples have relied on her expertise to create fair, mutually beneficial child support agreements that protect their rights and the best interests of their children. Contact us today to file a child support modification request that works for your family.