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Modifying child support: Can it be done?

Navigating California’s child support laws can be difficult, particularly if you do not have any help. In many cases, parents find themselves lost in the various laws and procedures that govern this hotly contested topic.

For instance, one question many parents commonly have is whether they can ever modify their child support payments, either up or down. Or, are these payments set in stone? Well, the short answer is yes, they can be modified — but only in certain situations.

Child support modification, the basics

Whether you are a divorced parent or you were never married to your child’s other parent, California law says that a court can modify a child support obligation any time it may deem it necessary. Generally, however, a court will not change an existing child support order unless there has been a “material” or “substantial” change in circumstances since the order was put into effect.

In most cases, the overriding issue for the court is whether this change has impacted with party’s financial status. For example, if the parent paying support has increased earnings, it may be grounds for increasing child support. Alternatively, if the supporting parent has an involuntary decrease in earnings, a decrease in child support may be warranted.

However, it is important to mention that a court may refuse to modify child support based on actual earnings if evidence exists indicating a parent may be deliberately suppressing his or her income to avoid family financial responsibilities. In such cases, the court my base it child support determination on a parent’s earning capacity, and not actual income. Conversely, if the reduction of income is based on circumstances beyond the supporting parent’s control, the court will generally not examine earning capacity.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that every situation is different. Even if you think your circumstances warrant a modification, a court may disagree. Indeed, determining whether your situation may qualify for a modification can be difficult to do, which is why it is always best to contact an experienced family law attorney. A skilled attorney can help review your situation and explain what possible legal options may be available. You don’t have to deal with this alone, so get the help you need today.

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