Most Californians who have survived the divorce process view the final order and decree a bit like the Ten Commandments – carved in stone and almost impossible to change. This view usually applies with the most force to the Court’s order regarding child support. Fortunately, the California divorce laws are not quite so rigid. With a little knowledge and some hard work, a court order for child support can usually be modified if the person desiring a change can muster the right evidence.
Beginning the modification process
The initial step is deciding that the current terms of child support are unfair, either because they require an insufficient payment or because they order a payment that is more than the payor spouse can afford. This decision is essentially personal.
Proving a change of circumstances
The next step is proving that circumstances have changed since the original order was entered. Examples of changed circumstances include a change in primary physical custody, a significant change in visitation, a significant change in the income of either parent, incarceration of the person paying support (PPS), the PPS begins to receive general relief, supplemental social security income or Veteran’s Benefits. These changes are usually proved by submitting bank records or income records. If the spouse receiving support experiences a change in housing costs, this change is usually proved by copies of checks payable to the landlord.
The information submitted by the spouse seeking a modification in the support order must provide copies of the supporting documentation to the other spouse. The Court will first ask the parties to confer and attempt to agree upon the terms of an amended order. If the couple cannot agree, the matter will be submitted to the court for a trial. The court will then issue an order.
While the state makes it as easy as possible for an individual to obtain a change in a support order without professional assistance, the assistance of a competent divorce attorney can be invaluable. A knowledgeable lawyer can pull together the relevant evidence and assemble it in a convincing manner before it is presented to the court. If a trial is necessary, an attorney can make the presentation of the evidence very persuasive, thereby increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.