Every parent has a legal obligation to support their children. If you are not married, or get divorced or separated, you may be required to pay a certain amount of your income in child support to the custodial parent.
Child support payments are based on each parent’s income, time spent with the child, the number of children and if the child has special needs. There are statutory guidelines that the court uses in determining your support payments. Another facet of support is that the children are entitled to share in the same standard of living as both parents.
There are circumstances where you can move the court to lower your child support payments so long as the lowered payments are commensurate with the income levels of the parents and parenting time and the child’s welfare, health, safety and well-being are not put at risk.
Modification of Child Support
You can ask the court to lower your child support payments under California Family Law Code 3653 (b)-(d). There are a number of circumstances where the court will lower your payments.
Loss of Employment
If you are asserting loss of employment as a basis for lowered support or no support, you can use Code 3653(b). You will need to provide documentation of your loss of employment and submit a new income disclosure document. If granted, the modification will last until you secure employment. Do not unilaterally reduce the amount of the income owed without a court order, though any modification order should be retroactive to the date you served the other parent with your request.
One factor to consider, however, is that you do have to actively seek employment. If you quit your job, you should have a sound basis for doing so. California courts will look at your education, employment history, skills and ability to work as well as the job market. If the court determines that your unemployed status is prompted by your unwillingness to pay child support, it will not grant your modification request. It can also reinstate or increase your support obligations on this basis as well.
Military or National Guard service is another justification for support modification pursuant to Section (c). Similarly, the order for modification is made retroactive to the date the notice of military activation was served on the other party. Any amounts paid in excess of the retroactive order must be repaid.
Change in Circumstances
Another reason for seeking modification, other than loss of employment or military activation, is a change in circumstances. Common reasons for asserting a change that warrants lowering your child support payments include:
- Your parenting time has increased significantly
- Your income has significantly decreased
- You or the other parent has another child from another relationship
- The child had special needs or expenses that are no longer relevant
- You remarry under certain circumstances
If you do remarry and now enjoy an added income from your new spouse, this does not mean that your support payments will increase. For example, you and your new spouse may be in a new tax bracket where more money is deducted from the combined payments, so long as you are filing jointly. Accordingly, your support payments may decrease since you will have less net disposable income from your own yearly income. This is a situation that your family law attorney can discuss with you.
Do Not Wait to File for Modification
Waiting can be detrimental to your finances if there are circumstances that justify lowering your support. Many parents fear that requesting lower support will result in loss of the increased parenting time they have been experiencing. Also, a parent may feel that the loss of a job is only temporary but finances get to a point where payments become late, jeopardizing issuance of a contempt order against you.
Promptly contact Los Angeles family law attorney Omar Gastelum if you feel your support payments should change. Handling complex issues of family law including child support, custody, visitation, alimony, debt division and any other matter are routine for him and his office staff.