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When Can Child Support Be Modified in California?

Sometimes, the amount of child support originally ordered in a California divorce settlement can be changed. For example, if a payor loses their job, they may be unable to continue making child support payments. In that case, the court may grant a child support modification.

If a payee loses their job, they may be unable to provide for their child and decide to ask for even more assistance from their ex-spouse. In that case, the court might also grant a child support modification.

In California, if a parent wants to modify a child support agreement, they must typically prove that there has been a “change in circumstance” that warrants the modification. The exception to this rule is if both parties previously signed and agreed to a child support amount below the guideline.

Proving a change in circumstance

If you want to get a child support order changed in California, you must first prove that a change in circumstance has occurred. This could be a change in income for either party, a change of the custodial timeshare, or a change in the statutory minimum child support. 

Other circumstances could also apply. For example, a child’s financial needs may increase due to an unforeseen health crisis. Or, one parent may become incarcerated, leaving the other parent to take complete responsibility for the child’s care.

Tips for child support modification in California

Here are five tips to keep in mind if you’re considering asking for a child support modification—or if your ex has decided to ask for a modification.

1. Even a “final” divorce judgment can be modified with respect to child support.

Don’t assume the book is closed on this issue because your divorce is complete. A California court can make child support orders or changes to the orders even after the divorce.

2. Child support payment changes can’t be fulfilled retroactively.

A payor or payee parent can only modify support back to the date they filed a motion to modify. A payer cannot, for example, ask for a refund on payments made before the modification.

3. U.S. military members deployed out of state may receive special considerations with respect to child support modification.

This applies to National Guard members and other U.S. military members. The special considerations also apply in the areas of child custody and child visitation. For more information, consider obtaining legal advice from Hello Divorce or the provider of your choice.

4. A California court may modify and enforce another state's child support order.

This type of modification requires a legal proceeding to register the other state’s order. It may be done if all parties reside in California and the child does not reside in the issuing state.

5. Not everyone plays fair when it comes to child support.

For example, a manipulative ex could initially “agree” to an amount of child support below the state guidelines in order to get something they want out of the settlement. Shortly thereafter, they could turn around and file a motion to modify child support, leaving their unsuspecting ex with a financial loss.

Hello Divorce provides customizable divorce packages with varying levels of assistance. We also provide a la carte legal counseling services for people with special divorce issues, including those pertaining to child support. To help potential clients figure out next steps, we offer a free 15-minute informational call. Schedule yours today.