4 FAQs about modifying a California child support order

During divorce, the court tries to determine a support arrangement that provides shared children with a comparable quality of life as enjoyed before parents have separated. This may include both basic health and educational costs as well as specialized needs.

However, the law also recognizes that neither parents nor children benefit when an existing support order puts undue burden on one party. In California, either divorced partner may request a modification to a support payment agreement when the original order no longer matches up with financial realities.

When is a modification request warranted?

Under California law, a parent may request modification if the original court order significantly diverges from state guidelines or if either parent has experienced a substantial change in circumstances.

In general, the court may approve child support changes if a new calculation would result in an increase or decrease of at least $50.00 or 20%, whichever is the lesser amount.

What are common reasons for changing a support order?

In addition to loss of income or employment, a parent paying support may seek a lower amount if he or she develops an ongoing medical condition, loses health insurance coverage or has another child in a different relationship.

On the other hand, a parent receiving support may request higher payments if a child’s healthcare, educational or other specialized needs have significantly changed, or if he or she has taken on greater parental time responsibilities.

Does modification require going to court?

When both parents agree on changes to child support, there is no need to go to court to alter the original order. However, for the new agreement to be legally enforceable, it is necessary that divorced partners seek official modification through the California courts.