Millions of Americans already have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis and the worst of the damage is yet to come, according to a Federal Reserve estimate.
And … how will this affect child support?
It is a comfort to know that you can make changes to child support orders. Nothing is permanent. California’s statewide uniform child support guideline states that child support orders are modifiable “at any time as the court deems necessary.”
Just to warn you, until an order for child support is modified, you must pay the child support amount in the existing order. If you are one of the many people in these turbulent economic times having trouble either making child support payments or needing more child support due to a change in work or living situation, we can help you… and fast.
Below are some of the key factors we would like you to think about when seeking a child support modification.
1. Do not delay a modification
Be sure to take steps right away to modify child support if there are circumstances not allowing you to pay child support or if there are changes warranting an increase in child support. If you are unable to pay and you do not change your child support obligations, those payments become what’s called “in arrears.”
Whatever your situation, whether negotiating with the other parent or taking it to court, we will assist and advise you in modifying your current child support orders in any type of circumstance.
2. Agree to modify with the other parent
You should try to first come to an agreement with the other parent to modify the child support terms. But, be sure to hire a skilled family law attorney well-versed in these types of modifications to assist you through the negotiations to ensure proper protections. If this is the case, you will have to justify why the agreement is below the guideline amount, and that it will adequately provide for the child’s support.
3. Material change in circumstances to modify
If you and the other parent cannot agree on changes to the existing child support order, you will need to ask the court for a hearing to modify. The party seeking the child support modification will have to show that there is a “material change of circumstances” that justifies a modification of the existing order.
So long as the child support guidelines are met, each determination is made on a case-by-case basis. This determination can only be reversed for abuse of the judge’s discretion. Examples of substantial or material changes include:
- Shifts in either parent’s financial ability to pay
- An increase or decrease in visitation time with the child
- A child suffering a permanent disability requiring costly care
- Increases or decreases of child costs
- A parent becoming disabled
- A parent becoming incarcerated
- Increased child-related travel expenses due to visitation changes
- A parent suffering extreme financial hardship
4. What qualifies as a hardship for modification
If you are suffering “extreme financial hardship,” a court may modify child support by allowing a deduction from your income. Extreme financial hardship occurs when there is/are:
- Extraordinary health expenses,
- Catastrophic losses that are uninsured, or
- An adoption or birth of a child from another relationship or marriage (a deduction is given for basic living expenses of children living with the parent experiencing hardship)
5. Earning capacity as opposed to actual earnings when looking to modify
What you actually earn is not necessarily controlling in determining the ability to pay. A court may consider your “earning capacity” instead of actual earnings taking into account what is in the best interests of the children. If a court finds there is an opportunity to work and employment exists for a parent that is underemployed or unemployed, it may attribute earnings based on earning capacity, consistent with a child’s best interests.
Speak to a California Divorce Attorney for Your Divorce Needs
We take that seriously and dedicate our skills, resources and experiences to ensure you get the best results for your future.
Contact our law firm today at 562-439-9001 if you or someone you know needs the help of an experienced family law attorney. We will be here for you when you call. Schedule a free consultation!
We are very central to all of Long Beach, Seal Beach, Lakewood, Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Newport Beach; and regularly serve all of Los Angeles.
This is intended as general advice and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Each situation is unique and requires specific analysis of relevant contracts, facts, and legal obligations.