An order by a judge governing child support is not written in stone. Should circumstances change, such as one parent’s financial circumstances or the length of time that a child regularly spends with one parent, you are entitled t request that the Court re-evaluate the present child support order to factor in this change in circumstances.
For instance, if one parent’s income increases significantly, a judge may order that this parent pays additional child support accordingly. Similarly, if custody arrangements have changed, and a child has gone from spending the majority of his or her time with one parent to spending a majority of time with the other parent, this may also be a significant factor which calls for a corresponding change in the existing child support arrangement.
The California Family Code sets forth a “guideline” which incorporates numerous principles that a judge must consider in assessing child support. We live in a world that is in a constant state of flux. Change in circumstances and lifestyle is both natural and healthy. As such, a meaningful evaluation of the very principles that govern child support payments often requires a second and maybe even a third look in order to show a change in one’s financial state or otherwise.
As a threshold matter, it is important to bring to your attention that you must take affirmative action to modify the present child support order should you believe that such a change is warranted under the circumstances. You must take action and inform the Court of this change in circumstances via the appropriate legal avenues. This can be a tedious legal process that is best not navigated alone. A family law attorney can help you ensure that your child support arrangement is in line with the present nature of each parent’s economic state, the existing custody arrangement, and overall lifestyle.
Seeking guidance from an experienced family law attorney such as Fischer & Van Thiel can not only help you understand which changes in income and custody entitle you to a modification of the current child support order but can also help you take action immediately to ensure that the appropriate changes come to light as a practical matter.
California Guidelines to Determining Child Support
California Family Code 4053 sets forth a uniform guideline that courts are to adhere to when assessing child support. This Code section includes the following principles:
(a)A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.
(d) Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
(e) The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state’s top priority.
(f) Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
(g) A child support order in a case in which both parents have high levels of responsibility for the children should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and should minimize significant disparities in the children’s living standards in the two homes.
(h) The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.
(i) It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children.
(j) The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.
(k) The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.
(l) A child support order must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.
So What Does This Really Mean?? – Under What Circumstances May A Change in the Child Support Order Be Warranted?
You may be entitled to change the present child support order if any of the following are true:
- There has been a change in income or employment status;
- One parent has been incarcerated.
- There has been a significant change in how much time the child spends with each parent.
- Circumstances have arisen that call for a change in your child’s financial needs and care.
- There have been changes in any of the factors that are used to calculate child support.
These factors are clearly a bit broad and difficult to interpret on an individual basis. This is all the more reason that you should contact a legal professional should you believe that any of these factors apply and you feel that you are entitled to a modification of your current child support order arrangement.
Key Consideration Prior to Court Intervention
Prior to involving the Court in a modification of the current child support arrangement, it is essential to consider that informal resolution may be a better answer than court intervention if at all possible. If you have a good relationship with your co-parent, it may be wise to discuss this change in parental circumstances and attempt to come to an independent agreement prior to involving the court. If each parent is able to come to an agreement as to how changed circumstances should play to child support payments, putting such a change into action will be faster, more efficient, and much more amicable, not to mention ultimately in the best interest of the child.
Should you be able to come to an informal agreement, it may be as simple as putting it in writing, submitting it to the court, and having said agreement signed by the judge.
However, whichever avenue you decide to take when it comes to modifying a current child support arrangement, it is highly recommended that you consult with a family law attorney to ensure that your child’s best interests are adequately protected.