Focusing On Family Law – And You
Many residents of Los Angeles County assume that the judge’s signature on the final order in a divorce marks the conclusive end of a long, tortuous and generally unpleasant process. However, life is uncertain, and many unforeseeable events can occur that may require an order for child support to be modified.
Either parent can request the court to modify the original order for child support, but the procedural and evidentiary requirements are identical, regardless of which parent is seeking the change.
The basic procedure
A person who wishes to have the court modify an existing order for child support must present the request to the court in writing. The parents may agree between them to a modification, but any change must ultimately be approved by a judge.
The request must be filed on forms established by the Child Support Services Department. The forms are intended to be filled out by the parties involved, but the wisdom of retaining an attorney to do so will be addressed later in this post.
Basis for modification
The party requesting the modification must demonstrate the existence of a “substantial change in circumstances” of either parent or the child. A significant change in circumstances can include a change in the child’s principal residence or hours of visitation, a significant change in the income of either parent, the incarceration of the person paying support, military deployment or an unexpected illness or injury that interferes with the ability of one parent to maintain an adequate income.
Both parents are required to submit detailed financial information that proves or refutes the allegation of a substantial change in circumstances.
Decision by the court
If the parents cannot resolve the issue of modifying child support, the court will set the matter for a hearing at which the parties are expected to present the evidence supporting their position or opposing the wishes of the other parent. After the court has heard the arguments and considered the evidence, it renders a written decision resolving the matter.
Retaining an attorney
As noted above, the judicial system in California has developed a system of forms that provide direction and assistance for persons unwilling or unable to retain an attorney to assist in the matter.
Before deciding whether to retain an attorney or go it alone, parents who need a modification should consult the forms, understand the kind of financial information they must provide, and consider how it might be a good idea to seek out professional advice.