“X” Factors That Could Modify Child Support Payment Amounts

How Criminal Charges Can Affect Child Custody in California

Both parents have a responsibility to support their children in California. Although a court can require either parent to pay child support, it is more common for the noncustodial parent to do so. The custodial parent (the parent with whom the child resides) is also responsible for child support, but the law believes that the custodial parent spends the required amount on the child directly and therefore is not obligated to give direct support payments.

Parties to a child support order have a few alternatives once a child support order is in place to amend (modify) the amount of payment. When either parent experiences a “substantial change in circumstances,” you can ask the court to add something like the child’s medical support (if the current order excludes it) or to adjust support payments.

According to the standards, a substantial change occurs when the level of support increases or decreases by 10% of the existing rate. This is typical when a parent loses their job, receives an inheritance, or the child’s needs change, among other things.

Child Support Obligations in California 

Parents in California are legally obligated to support their minor children. This obligation continues for a child between the ages of eighteen and nineteen who is working full-time to complete high school graduation or equivalency requirements in a way that is reasonably expected to culminate in completion before the individual reaches the age of nineteen. Support for a child of any age who is dependent on the parties due to a physical or mental handicap may be included in the obligation.

Medical support must be addressed in all child support orders, according to federal law, which includes ordering either parent to provide medical support. Medical support refers to the paying of a child’s medical, dental, pharmaceutical, and other healthcare costs. Medical assistance might come in the form of health insurance or cash.

The California statute establishes a fair cost medical support criterion of no more than 5% of a parent’s gross income, but it also allows the supreme court to set a different standard in the child support guidelines. The supreme court established an alternative threshold for low-income parents, stating that acceptable medical support is defined as either health insurance or cash medical payments that cost between 0% and 5% of the parent’s gross income.

How is Child Support Determined in California?

California law mandates that the amount of a parent’s child support obligation be calculated using the California Supreme Court’s universal child support guidelines. The California Child Support Guidelines are designed to protect children’s best interests by acknowledging both parents’ responsibility to provide adequate support for their children in proportion to their respective incomes. Only if the court determines that such an adjustment is essential to meet the needs of the children and to do justice between the parties in the unique circumstances of each case can an order deviate from the guideline amount.

The final decision on the amount of child support is made by the county child support commissioner or a family law judge. The California Child Support Guideline Calculator is merely a guideline; it does not guarantee the amount of child support that will be ordered. The amount of child support given can be influenced by a variety of variables.

How are Child Support Orders Modified? 

Income withholding, garnishment, liens, and contempt of court are all options for enforcing compliance with a child support order under California law. If one parent fails to comply with a support order, the other parent must take action to enforce the order. There are ways to modify an order if one parent can no longer meet their requirements. 

If the court determines that there has been a significant change in circumstances, the court may modify the child support order. A party must apply to the court to have an order modified. The court will consider a variety of factors when determining whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances, including changes in:

  • A party’s employment
  • Earning capacity
  • Income or resources
  • Receipt of an inheritance, pension, or other gifts
  • Changes in a party’s medical expenses
  • Changes in the number or needs of a party’s dependents
  • Changes in a party’s residence
  • A party’s remarriage.

There are other circumstances that a court will consider if either party seeks a modification. However, the court is generally strict with these orders and will always ensure that they are in the best interests of the child. 

Permanent vs. Temporary Modification 

Modifications to child support can be temporary or permanent. In certain instances, such as a child’s medical emergency, one parent’s temporary loss of job, or one parent’s medical emergency, temporary modifications in child support payments may be allowed. If one parent needs to be hospitalized for a lengthy period of time, a temporary modification of child support may be combined with a temporary change of child custody.

If it is a temporary modification, this will be explicit in the order and will generally state a timeline. Should that timeline need to be modified, the parties will have to seek another request for modification of the orders. Once the temporary modification has expired, the parties will be held to their obligations under the original child support orders. 

When there is a “significant change in circumstance,” permanent child support changes may be granted. This is the only exception to modifying child support orders permanently, and the significant circumstance must be a long-term change in that person’s life.  One parent’s remarriage, changes in family law affecting child support, one parent’s chronic disability, the child’s requirements, or one parent’s work change are common examples of a “significant change in circumstances.” 

Contact the Family Law Attorneys at Pedrick Law

If you or your child’s other parent is seeking to modify an existing child support order, you should contact an experienced attorney.

Contact an experienced Orange County child support lawyer at Pedrick Law today. Schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys today by calling us at 949-353-5934 or by filling out our online form. 

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