Child Support Modification
At any time, and under certain circumstances, parents can attempt to modify their child support arrangements. Either parent can request to have the arrangement modified or, if both parents agree to the modification and do so in writing, it can even be kept out of court. In most cases of disagreement, however, a court battle will ensue.
There are two situations in which the court will hear a case requesting modification of child support. The first is if the original child support arrangement does not follow the state/county guidelines and requirements for child support (I.e. falling underneath the minimum). Whether that be because the guidelines have changed since the arrangement was made, because the support arrangement was decided outside of court, or an error, it still qualifies for modification.
The second (and more common) reason is that circumstances have changed, resulting in the original child support arrangement being insufficient or damaging. There are a number of situations that could result in such a change:
- A change in income
- One parent becoming unemployed
- One parent had a child from a separate relationship
- A change in the amount of time the child(ren) spend with either parent
- A change in the needs of the child (education, healthcare, etc)
- A change in any of the factors used to decide child support
- One party received a substantial inheritance or other financial windfall
A minor change in any of these is not sufficient for the court to grant a change in child support. The requesting party must prove that there has been a significant change, and that it will affect the well-being of the child—not just the parent. Likewise, it must also be proven that these circumstances were out of the control of the parent. For instance, if the judge feels as though the requesting parent is unintentionally and irresponsibly avoiding work, they may refuse the request for modification.
These changes are not retroactive. In other words, changing the child support arrangement will not entitle either party to money from previous payments—they only affect installments after the date a motion is filed.
It is imperative not to make any child support decisions without the assistance of a lawyer and the blessing of the court. This process is incredibly complicated, and simple mistakes can result in enormous consequences, including criminal charges, especially if you decide to pay less without having the original order changed.
If the court does grant a request for modification, the new arrangement will be decided upon in the same way the original was. For details on that, visit our page on Child Support (hyperlink this to the relevant article).
At the Law Offices of Glenn R. Wilson (FamilyLawFresno.com) we are experienced in handling child support modification proceedings and can provide aggressive legal assistance in your support matter.
By Connor Douglas Johnson