There are times when the financial circumstances of one or both parents change significantly after a child support order was issued. When this happens, either party may file a request to modify the prior order to reflect the change.
When both parties agree, they may file a written stipulation to the new amount and submit it to the court for the court's approval. If the parents do not agree, either one may file a motion with the court in order to request a modification. Once the motion is filed, a copy will need to be served on the other parent, giving that parent a chance to respond. The parties will then be able to present evidence concerning the reason for the requested change at a contested hearing, and the judge will decide whether the amount should or should not be modified.
Motions may be filed for many reasons. Sometimes, a parent will lose his or her job, or one of the parents is incarcerated. At other times, one or both parents will have a significant increase or decrease in their incomes. Some parents will need the amount modified after having a child from another relationship for whom they also need to provide support. Sometimes, the child for whom support is paid changes residences to stay with the other parent an increased amount of time. All of these are valid reasons to request a child support modification.
Child support is normally ordered according to the guideline amounts. The court may deviate from the guidelines when the circumstances mandate that they do so. Those parents who have questions regarding whether their child support is likely to be modified may wish to consult with a family law attorney. Until an order is changed, they should continue paying support as previously ordered.
Source: Judicial Council of California, "Changing a Child Support Order", November 25, 2014