When a California court orders you to pay child support, the amount is based on a complex formula which takes into consideration many relevant factors. One important factor is the income of the supporting parent.
It is not uncommon, however, for things to change in the life of an adult. If you are a noncustodial parent, you may know this first hand. As much as you may desire to provide the funds ordered for your child's needs, a sudden setback can make it impossible.
On the other hand, if you experience an upturn in your circumstances, your co-parent may ask you to share that good fortune with your child.
Grounds for requesting child support modification
Generally, there are two main reasons to request a modification in your child support payments.
- Change in the financial situation of you or your co-parent
- Change in the physical situation of you, your child or your co-parent
Your financial circumstances may have changed if you or your co-parent lost a job or had a sudden increase or decrease in income. If your child, for any reason, needs more or less money, this may necessitate a change in support. For example, your child may finally have those braces removed, or the cost of your daycare provider may rise.
Changes in physical circumstances may also precipitate a modification in child support. If your child is spending considerably less time with you, or you or your co-parent have another child with a new partner, your child support payments may be altered. Child support may also be modified if you are deployed with a branch of the military.
Special circumstances for incarcerated parents
Even if you find yourself in jail or involuntarily institutionalized, you are still responsible for your support payments for the first 90 days of your incarceration. After that, those payments are automatically suspended until your release. However, there are some situations which would make you ineligible to have your child support payments suspended during your incarceration:
- If you are confined because you did not make your court ordered child support payments
- If you are confined because of acts of domestic violence against your child or co-parent
- If you still have the means to make payments while you are confined
If your incarceration or institutionalization results in a change in your job status or income, your lawyer can work with you to request a modification through the court system.
Working with your co-parent
Sometimes, a divorced couple is able to come to agreements relatively easily. If your relationship with your former spouse is like this, you may be able to negotiate with him or her and come to a decision about the new amount of child support for which you will be responsible.
Your attorney can help you compose the request for a judge to sign it into an order. The modification will not be legally enforceable without a judge's signature.
If you and your former spouse are not able to reach an agreement, you will need to ask the court to modify the support amount. Your attorney can help you file the motion. You will have to specify the hardship that is the cause of your modification request.
Working closely with your attorney will ensure the adequate and timely handling of all paperwork, which will prevent lapses in payment that may cause you more legal trouble. In addition, it is always beneficial to have an advocate by your side who knows the complex workings of family law.