Wood figures on child support document

Modifying a Child Support Arrangement in California

Shelly Jean John, Attorney at Law Jan. 11, 2021

According to a recent study from Census.gov, more than 22 million individuals under the age of 21 in the United States live with a custodial parent while the other parent resides elsewhere. Less than one-half of the custodial parents receive child support either through a legal agreement or an informal child support arrangement.

California’s Child Support Guideline formula uses each parent’s income, withholdings, deductions, and time spent with the child to calculate child support payments. When new circumstances alter the original calculation, you have the right to request a modification to the child support agreement. There are processes you can use to request modifications that do not require having an attorney; however, seeking legal counsel from a family law attorney experienced with child support modifications can often improve your chances of a successful outcome.

At my law firm, the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I have provided sound legal counsel to clients seeking child support modifications in Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County, California, for more than 20 years. My practice is designed to give you as little or as much legal counsel and advice as you need when seeking modifications. My goal is to provide my clients with the guidance they need without asking them to pay for any unnecessary time or legal services from a family law attorney.

Reasons to Modify a Child Support Agreement

Circumstances often change throughout the lifetime of a child support agreement. There are several instances in which you might wish to seek child support modifications, including but not limited to:

  • Loss of employment

  • New or additional employment

  • An increase or decrease in the income of either parent

  • Changes in custody or visitation

  • Change in family size

  • A parent becomes disabled

  • Imprisonment

  • Active military service deployment

How to Seek Approval of Modification

You can petition the court for child support modification or request that the local child support agency review your existing agreement. You will need to produce documentation of circumstantial change such as income and expenses, medical insurance costs, disability or incarceration status, unemployment benefits, or custody and visitation changes. Generally, a modification will be granted if the circumstances result in a change under the Child Support Guideline formula of 20% or $50, whichever is less.

The parents can outline any requested modifications and submit them to the court for approval and issuance of a new child support order. If the parents cannot agree on any proposed modifications, they will need to attend a hearing, present evidence and arguments, and the judge or commissioner will render a decision.

How Remarriage or a New Child Affects Child Support Arrangements

The biological parents bear the legal financial responsibility for their children, so remarriage is not a barrier to modification. A stepparent’s income would only be considered under rare circumstances where there is evidence of extreme hardship for the child. The stepparent’s income also may be considered if the biological spouse voluntarily stops working or intentionally remains unemployed while relying on the new spouse’s income.

Furthermore, having a new child with someone else will not reduce child support obligations. While parents certainly have a right to have more children, doing so is not a reason for reducing support to any child who is the subject of a support agreement.

Work with an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Child support is awarded for the benefit of the child, not to reward or punish either parent. Nonetheless, the subject can be contentious in the heat of divorce and remain long after it has been finalized. Still, circumstances in life can change over time that affects one’s ability to provide financial support for the child. This is why California law accommodates child support arrangement modifications when there is a genuine need to do so.

There are a variety of different ways that a parent can request modifications to an existing child support agreement without hiring a child support lawyer, however, working with experienced legal counsel can be helpful in most cases. If you are a parent searching for reliable and affordable legal advice for child support modifications, the Law Office of Shelly Jean John offers a variety of legal solutions to families in need.

As an experienced family law attorney, I assist clients seeking child support modifications with as little or as much legal counsel as they need. If you live in Ontario or Riverside, California, or in San Bernardino County or Riverside County, call my office today to find out how I can help you and your family find a solution.