In general, a California child support and/or spousal support order can be modified only if one party proves a “change in circumstances” since the last order was made. If you want your support payments to be reduced, you will have to show that either your income has been substantially reduced or that you have incurred an unforeseen or unanticipated liability. Alternately, you could show that the other party’s income is higher than it was when the current support order went into effect.
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California Support Modification
A California support modification can be filed when there is a change in circumstances which often is one party’s change in income.
Paying Child or Spousal Support
If you are currently paying either child or spousal support, you should file for a California support modification as soon as possible should you experience a reduction in your income or an increase in expenses due to an unforeseen or unanticipated liability. In the meantime, if you cannot pay the entire amount of support you owe, you should try to pay a lesser amount to reduce the amount of arrears payments you will owe and to limit interest charges. Do not rely on an agreement you may reach with the other party to negate your obligation to pay the amount stated in the court order because, a court order can only be modified by a new court order.
Child Support Termination
Under the California Family Code, one parent can be ordered to pay the other parent child support. Child support orders remain in effect until the child turns eighteen, unless the child is still attending high school, at which point child support continues until that child graduates high school or turns nineteen years of age.
California Child Support Statewide Guideline
A parent who is receiving child support may obtain an increase in the amount of child support that is being paid without having to show a change in circumstances. This occurs when the parties have agreed to payments below the statewide guideline. California Family Code allows the parent who is receiving less than the statewide guideline amount for child support to request a California support modification to an amount at least at the statewide guideline level. However, the alternate is not true and a parent who is paying more than statewide guideline for child support cannot go back to court to request that payments be reduced. Statewide guideline support is a minimum payment and cannot be used to reduce “over-payments.”
Spousal Support Orders
Under the California Family Code, one spouse can be ordered to pay the other spouse spousal support. Spousal support remains in effect until the spouse who is receiving spousal support remarries, dies, or the support order is modified by a court. Spousal support orders can be written to provide that the amount of support and/or the duration of support will either be reduced or terminated on a specific date.
Payments for child support and/or spousal support should be made by check or bank transfer. Do not pay in cash. Additionally, you should retain receipts and records for all payment. You never know when there may be a challenge to either the amount you are paying or for how long payments should continue.
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