Family courts handle requests to modify child support orders quite frequently. It is one of the most likely reasons a former spouse will petition the court after the divorce has been finalized. Material changes in the circumstances of either parent can give rise to a petition to modify the original agreement. The Sacramento, California divorce attorneys at Wagner Family Law can help you file a petition for the modification of child support. In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know before you speak with your attorney.
What Do I Need to Prove?
Family law will quickly clog up the courts, so avoiding hearings becomes a matter of judicial economy. So, if you want to get a hearing in front of a judge, you need to first establish that there was a material change in your financial circumstances. This will require that you establish bills, expenses, and income and show where the change occurred.
The most common reasons for modifying a child support order are a change in income or a change in parenting time.
Loss of Income
The court will consider the loss of income for the purposes of modifying child support. However, the loss of income must not be the fault of the spouse, and the situation must be unlikely to resolve itself. For instance, if someone gets fired and a month later, they are at a new job making the same amount of money, the loss of the job is unlikely to impact the child support case. The following are scenarios that are likely to be considered by the court for the purposes of modifying a support order.
- Change of employment - Demotions, downsizing, and layoffs are all well-respected reasons to request a modification of child support. Disability and military deployment are also recognized as reasons to modify a support order.
- Changes in income - The loss of a revenue stream can impact how much you can pay. The court may consider the loss of an income stream when it prevents you from both supporting yourself and paying child support.
- Changes in parenting time - The more parenting time you have with a child, the more parenting expenses you accrue. For that reason, the parent who has the children most of the time gets child support. If there is a change in the amount of parenting time one parent is receiving, this will mean they are paying more money to support the children and should be paying less money in child support.
- Changes in living expenses - Increases in the cost of living are now a major reason for child support modification requests. The housing costs, food costs, and skyrocketing gas prices, no one has a lot of disposable income. With money stretched tighter, modification requests are common.
- Aging children become more expensive - The older your child gets, the more expensive they become. Requests for child support increase alongside the age of your child.
Do You Need to Involve the Courts?
You can make backdoor arrangements with the other parent, but you should be aware that they are under no obligation to make the changes or make payment. The court will only enforce an order that they have on record, so the risk you run by simply agreeing with a handshake is considerable. Essentially, it leaves the other spouse with the opportunity to void the agreement whenever they consider it inconvenient. This requires a considerable amount of trust.
How Does a Modification for Support Work?
There are two ways that a modification for support works: The easy way and the hard way. The easy way is when both parents hammer out an agreement together and then present the revised agreement to the court. The court knows that both parents are happy with the new arrangement, so they seldom intervene unless it seems fishy. The judge bangs the gavel, and the new agreement is now enforceable.
If you and your former spouse cannot reach an agreement, then you have to argue your case in front of a judge. The judge will determine if there are enough material circumstances to warrant a change to the original agreement, and if so, the new agreement will become enforceable regardless of whether or not the old spouse thinks it is fair. Alternatively, the judge can deny the request.
Contested Child Support Hearings
If the parents cannot agree to the new support modification, then each side will be asked to present arguments as to why the original order should be vacated and whether a new order is appropriate. In these cases, the burden of proof falls on the individual requesting the order to prove that enough material circumstances have changed to warrant the effort. The judge will listen to the arguments, apply the law, and determine whether or not the order is appropriate.
Working With an Attorney
When you have an attorney handle the process of petitioning the court, we take the load off your back. The court will require you file the petition and then have evidence that there is a substantial change in your material circumstances that is impacting your ability to provide for your children. The court will review the request, and the other petitioner will have the opportunity to contest it. Getting money from an unwilling spouse can be quite difficult. Our attorneys have years of experience dealing with noncooperative spouses underreporting their earnings.
How a Sacramento, CA Family Lawyer Can Help
Changes in the material security of Americans are happening more often than ever, and parents are struggling to find money amid escalating costs. The attorneys at Wagner Family Law recognize that providing for your children is your primary concern. Call us today to discuss your need in more detail, and we can begin discussing how to adapt your child support arrangement to your current needs.
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