How to Win a Child Support Modification Case in California

Life can come at us fast, as an iconic movie once taught. The consequences can be that decisions that made sense at the time they were made, become outdated. When those decisions involve agreements like those involving child support, getting the changes you need involves following a painstaking legal process. A reliable attorney from The Law Offices of James-Phillip V.M. Anderson can advise clients on how to win a child support modification case.

Reasons for Requesting a Child Support Modification

The guidelines issued by the state of California recognize the reality that life does change. But how these guidelines work in real life will always come down to the unique circumstances involved with each couple. Here are some examples of reasons that will (or won’t) be considered sufficient for the court to issue a modification order…

A Change in Job Status

One of the premises in the original support agreement is that children have the right to share in the lifestyle of their parents. The parent who is a CEO making $600,000 a year will have a higher support payment than the parent who earns a middle-class salary. But what happens if the CEO is laid off? An unfortunate reality is that children do share in the burdens that come when a parent loses a job.

When a modification order is requested, a judge will consider how long the parent is expected to be out of work, and whether they are likely to land a job that pays a comparable income. In our hypothetical example, the laid-off CEO might well find a new, and pretty good job, in fairly short order. But will they still be earning C-level money? That’s a different question. How that question is answered will go a long way in deciding if a judge signs off on the modification request, and what the revised payments will be.

Now, let’s consider a scenario where the CEO voluntarily gives up their position and takes a lower-paying job. How will the judge respond to the modification request?

As an experienced law office, we know that you never say never. But we can say that a judge is much more likely to cast a skeptical eye on modifying child support in these circumstances. Parents are certainly entitled to make career changes. Those reasons may well be good ones—it might be less stress, to work for a worthy cause, or even to spend more time with the very children whose support is under review. But it is presumed that the paying parent—not the recipient parent, and certainly not the child—will bear the costs of that life decision.

More Children Arrive

Perhaps the parent paying child support has remarried and inherited children from their new spouse. Or perhaps they have more biological children in a new relationship or marriage. Either way, responsibilities for more children are a valid reason to request child support modification.

Increased Tuition Costs

This comes from the perspective of the recipient parent, who may want a modification that will increase the support payments to allow for tuition costs. Whether this is possible will depend on quite a few variables...

  • The state of California only requires support payments up until the child’s 18th birthday, so this timeline would presumably exclude college tuition. Unless the costs of college were explicitly spelled out in the original settlement, the paying parent will not be mandated to bring forth additional monies.
  • So, the presumption is that the higher tuition is for a private high school or grammar school. A judge is likely to consider whether the children of parents who earn similar incomes are going to private schools that call for high tuition—in the case of our hypothetical CEO, that answer is probably yes. For a middle-class family, perhaps not.
  • The judge will also likely revisit the terms of the original divorce settlement. If the parents were on board with the idea of higher-cost private education, the terms of financing might have already been factored in. If that’s the case, the judge would be unlikely to order an increase.

What Not to Do in Child Support Modification

One thing parents should not do is to act outside the legal system to change the payments. Even if a paying parent has been laid off and knows they have a strong case for modification, it’s imperative to keep paying at the agreement’s current level. Failing to do so can result in contempt of court charges. This is true even if the recipient spouse is understanding and supportive. The proper course in these situations is to simply keep paying in accord with the terms of the agreement, and let your attorney do the work necessary to get the appropriate modification.

Collaborative & Compassionate Legal Counsel

The Law Offices of James-Phillip V.M. Anderson know very well that life comes at all of us fast. That’s why we respond with good, efficient legal work in meeting the needs of our clients when modifications are called for.

Call today at (916) 282-7737 or contact us online to set up a consultation.

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