Child support orders can be modified after they have been signed by a judge if there has been a change in the circumstances of one or both parents. Examples of changes that would warrant a modification include an increase or decrease in income, if the supporting parent has become disabled or incarcerated, the party requiring support has remarried or had a child in another relationship, the needs of the child have changed, or the children have started college. A change may also occur if circumstances arise so that one parent can no longer be the custodial parent and custody is also changed.
If parents can agree on an amount, they can both sign an agreement and submit it to the court for approval. Ultimately, it is up to the judge whether or not to grant the modification, even if both parents have agreed. If both parents cannot agree on the amount, the parent who wants the order modified can file a petition for modification stating the reasons that there has been a change and requesting an increase or decrease in the amount of support.
The amount of child support will remain the same unless an order modifying it is signed. Therefore, it is important to request a change in the amount when changed circumstances arise instead of waiting until child support has been left unpaid and then trying to explain to the court what happened to cause the debt. Even if circumstances changed, the judge will likely still find a non-paying parent in violation of court orders unless he or she applies for a modification.
There are times where unexpected financial circumstances such as a medical emergency or job layoff make it difficult for a non-custodial parent to continue paying child support. A family law attorney can be of assistance in this regard.
Source: The Judicial Branch of California , “Changing a Child Support Order“, December 17, 2014