When it comes to setting child support, judges follow guidelines established by certain states. An Orange County child custody attorney can help you better understand the California guidelines when you’re trying to learn about how child support works.

To answer the question, yes, child support amounts can be modified in the state of California. 

Modifying Child Support Amount

While a child support amount can change, it’s important to note that courts typically calculate the amount based on parental income available for the support and factor in other expenses like health insurance and child care.

They also look closely at the amount of time each parent spends with the child. 

However, for most families, circumstances continue to change with both parents or the child. If there is a significant change, it may be necessary to modify the amount of the initial child support order. 

Changing a Child Support Order 

In order for a court and judge to modify an existing child support amount, there must be a change in circumstance. However, this is only true if there wasn’t a written stipulation approved and signed by the judge to an amount below the guideline amount.

If the original child support amount was at or above the guideline amount depending on the various factors that go into deciding an amount, then there must be a formal modification of child shipping. 

There are many reasons why the amount owed in child support may need to be changed, including:

  • If the income of either parent has changed.
  • If either parent loses their job
  • If either parent got incarcerated
  • If there are changes in the amount of time the child spends with each parent
  • If the child’s needs have changed
  • If there are changes in factors used to calculate the original child support amount
  • If either parent has become disabled

There are a few ways to change a child support order once it has gone into effect. 

1. By Agreement

Changing child support by agreement is the easiest way to modify an existing child support order. In this case, both parents come to an agreement about a new amount.

This amount is then taken into consideration by the cords and documented into a new order, with help from an experienced Orange County child custody attorney, which is then signed by a judge. 

If parents agree on an amount but don’t go to the court to get the new order, then the old order is in effect despite any agreement. Following a verbal agreement without officially changing an order can also negatively impact the initial child support order. The parent who pays child support may end up with support arrearage or back child support. 

This means that if parent A is paying parent B directly, and parent B could choose to go back to the original, documented amount, meaning that parent A owes back child support since they are liable for the difference. 

Also, if the existing order requires that an employer garnish child support from wages, the employer cannot change a garnishment without a new court order. Therefore, no matter what agreement the parents come into, it’s important to follow through with a new court order. 

You must also be aware that in some states, judges are not permitted to modify the child support amount. This means that although you and your ex-partner have made an agreement for lower payments in good faith, back child support will likely be required.

Also, just because two parents have decided on a new, lower amount doesn’t mean that the new judge will accept it. If the new child support amount is higher than the original child support order, this likely won’t be an issue with a judge. However, if the amount is considerably lower, the judge will need to be convinced that the new amount is fair for both parents. 

While this method of changing a child support amount is the easiest, the most significant issue is whether the circumstances of their parent have changed enough to justify modifying the existing order.

For example, if one parent was laid off from work and having difficulty finding another, a judge may grant a new child support order. 

2. Asking the Court 

When parents can’t agree on a child support amount or cannot agree on whether to change an existing child support order, they will have to file a motion to modify child support.

A motion is a written request, which explains how there has been a change in circumstances since the last order was filed. 

Filing a motion is essentially asking the court to change the amount based on any number of circumstances. The court may or may not agree to do so depending on the change in the amount and whether it follows the guidelines set in place. 

Other Considerations

There are other circumstances that may allow parents to change the amount owed in child support, like:

Remarriage 

If a parent remarries, the child support guidelines often don’t include the income of the new spouse when calculating the amount.

However, that new income will play a more indirect role as it decreases the parent’s out-of-pocket expenses, freeing up more income for child support. 

Voluntary Income Reduction 

A voluntary income reduction occurs when a parent intentionally switches to a lower-paying job in order to reduce child support obligations.

However, the law allows courts to impute income, meaning that a judge will look at the parent’s education, prior earnings, and work history to determine the child support instead of the new, reduced income.

This means that the parent will likely end up paying the same amount as the original order.

Cost of Living Adjustment 

States may also award child support based on the cost of living adjustment (COLA) provision. This provision allows for the child support amount to increase by the cost-of-living rate periodically. This rate is based on an economic indicator and may decrease the need to request modifications. 

Find the Right Child Custody Attorney to Help You

Changing the amount a parent receives in child support can be tricky, so it’s always best to work with a child custody attorney that can help make the process easier.

If you need help understanding child support modification, our team of experienced child custody attorneys can help you with the process.

To learn how we can help you modify an existing child support amount, contact us at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin today.