What is child support modification?

A family court issues a child support order compelling the non-custodial parent to make child support payments to the custodial parent to assist in covering the child’s expenses. If the circumstances change on either side, the court may modify the child support order.

Who can request a support modification and why?

Either parent may request a child support modification. Other parties may petition the court for a change as well, such as local and out-of-state agencies. In California, a “substantial change in circumstances” is required by the court in order to modify an existing order. Such changes can include a shift in a parent’s income, whether a parent has lost his/her job, a change in family size (e.g. another child is born), one of the parents is sentenced to jail or prison, etc.

What information is needed to request a child support modification?

A parent petitioning for a child support modification will need certain information, including, proof of income, childcare expenses, health insurance premiums, disability benefits information (if applicable), unemployment benefits information (if applicable), retirement income (if applicable), and any details of custody and visitation arrangements.

What is a temporary vs. permanent support modification?

A temporary child support modification will be in effect until the change in circumstances is resolved – for example, if a parent has lost a job, the support modification will be lifted after that parent is able to secure another job.

Alternatively, a permanent child support modification will remain in effect until the child no longer requires support or if the parties opt to modify the order as a result of a change in circumstances – for example, if one of the parents remarries.

Is it necessary to go to court to modify a child support order?

Generally, yes. The main exception to this requirement is a “cost-of-living” modification. Many judges in California will usually include a “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) section in each child support order, which automatically adjusts the amount of child support owed based on an economic indicator, such as the Consumer Price Index. If a child support order contains this COLA language, then the non-custodial parent doesn’t need to attend hearings to modify his/her child support payments as a result of cost-of-living adjustments.

What is the child support modification process in Los Angeles County?

A parent can modify a child support order in LA County via three different methods:

  1. Request a review of the child support order by a child support service agency (CSSD).
  2. Petition the court directly.
  3. Retain an attorney to petition the court on your behalf.

The modification process should usually take no more than six months.

Do I need an attorney to modify a child support order?

An attorney is not required to modify a child support order. However, due to the legal complexities involved in some cases, it may be advisable to retain an attorney. This is especially true if:

  1. The other party has an attorney.
  2. The case is likely to be emotionally charged and/or contentious.
  3. The other party is self-employed or receives some of his/her income in cash.
  4. You believe the other party is being untruthful when reporting his/her income or assets.