Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

Is child support modification warranted in your case?

Divorce is never easy, as many California parents can attest. Even in the best of circumstances where both spouses wish each other well and simply want to agree to a settlement and move on in life in separate directions, numerous legal issues can arise along the way that require attention, time and money to resolve, often making stress levels soar for all involved. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, if you're facing child support problems, things may get worse before they get better.  

A critical factor to swift, amicable solutions to such issues requires knowing where to seek support and how to protect your rights. If there is already a court order in place, it is necessary for both parents to adhere to the terms. If you feel that a change is needed, you must follow the steps to seek modification of your court order. In the meantime, the existing order still stands and the court can hold anyone who fails to adhere to its terms in contempt.  

Determining if the court will grant modification

Like most good California parents, your highest priority in divorce was likely achieving a settlement that kept your children's best interests in mind, especially regarding financial supplements necessary to provide for their needs. The following information can help you determine if you have valid reason to seek modification of your court order: 

  • You are a custodial parent and learned that your former spouse's income has greatly increased. 
  • Your child has developed a medical condition that has prompted increased financial needs in your household. 
  • You lost your job or suffered a decrease in income. 
  • You had to relocate with your children and the cost of living in your new location is significantly higher than where you used to live.  

These are all valid reasons that you, as a custodial parent, may find it necessary to ask the court to modify your existing child support order. You may also need the court's intervention if such issues do not apply but your former spouse is not making scheduled payments as agreed upon in your settlement.  

If you are a non-custodial parent 

Since you want what is best for your children, you understand that providing financial support to help care for them is right and just. That does not necessarily mean you will always be able to keep up with payments. There are numerous issues, such as those included in the following list, that would justify seeking modification of your court order: 

  • You remarry and gain stepchildren, thus increasing the cost of living expenses in your own home.
  • Your boss cuts your incentive pay and bonuses. 
  • You learn that the custodial parent's income has greatly increased and is now higher than yours is. 
  • A medical issue that one of your children had is resolved and the expenses associated with the condition no longer exist.  

Remember that as long as a court order exists, you must adhere to its terms. Even if you have a justified need to seek modification, you must continue to make payments unless and until the court grants a request for change.  

Children's best interests 

No matter what type of contention arises between you and your ex regarding child support issues, the main concern is to make sure your children are provided for and can enjoy the same type of lifestyle to which they became accustomed during your marriage. If you believe someone is undermining your parental rights or is not fulfilling legal obligations, you can reach out for support to rectify the situation.  

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  • SCBA | Santa Clara County Bar Association | EST 1917
  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012