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When is it appropriate to seek a child support modification in California?

Child support is crucial when it comes to ensuring that a child’s needs are met. Once a judge issues a support order, it must be followed — and neither parent is permitted to change it without court approval. However, there are certain instances where fairness demands an existing child support order to be adjusted. Under California law, either parent can request a child support modification at any time if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.”

For example, a change in primary custody or visitation might warrant a modification. A modification may also be granted if one parent has been deployed to active military service. In addition, there are several other circumstances under which a court might grant a request for a child support modification, including:

  • One parent’s income has decreased involuntarily, whether due to job loss or for other reasons
  • One parent’s income has increased substantially
  • One parent has become disabled or suffered a serious injury
  • One parent’s family size has changed
  • One parent has been arrested

A parent can petition for a child support modification in court. Alternatively, the case can be reviewed by the local child support agency. If the parties agree to a child support amount below the guideline amount, it can be changed at any time. In such cases, a “substantial change in circumstances” won’t need to be shown.

Generally, you will need to show proof of your income and expenses, as well as any child-care costs. Depending on the reason you are seeking the modification, you might also be required to show proof of your disability status, unemployment benefits or the current custody situation. Modifications are usually granted in cases where the new circumstances would change the guideline support amount by at least $50 or 20 percent — whichever is less.

If the local child support agency denied your modification request, you are still permitted to bring the matter into court, where a judge will review the proposed adjustment.

If you are considering requesting a child support modification, it’s essential to have knowledgeable legal counsel to give you the best chance to achieve the result you seek. At Strategic Law Command, we are committed to providing knowledgeable and reliable representation for child support issues and a wide variety of family law matters in the Greater Sacramento area. Call (916) 787-1234 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Roseville office.