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Speed required when seeking to reduce a California child support order

Certain financial obligations are very difficult to get out from under. Student loans, unpaid taxes and child support obligations are debts that rarely go away. Unlike credit card bills or medical debts that may be dischargeable in bankruptcy, people who are behind on non-dischargeable debt such as child support may be subject to a variety of penalties and inconveniences related to such debts – whether they can afford them or not.

This means a job loss or added expenses can wreak havoc the ability for a noncustodial parent to pay child support and put the parent in a situation where there is no easy out.

Child support obligations

California guidelines determine the amount of child support. Broadly, this guideline factors in the income of both parents and how much time each parent spends with the child. A family law court will also factor in additional relevant circumstances, such as a child’s medical expenses, if appropriate.

But what happens when circumstances change from when the order was originally given?


The obligor (the payor) of child support may be able to modify his or her child support obligation if there is a significant change in circumstances that renders the previous arrangement inappropriate. Such a change might include an illness, having an additional child or a job loss. A change in which parent provides the most caretaking to the child may also make modification possible.

A paying parent can also seek to modify a child support order if the custodial parent is not acting in good faith towards being self-supporting. Child support is meant for the child, not the ex-spouse. If an ex-spouse does use the money for him or herself, it may be possible to modify the child support order.

Changes in child support payments are not retroactive. This means that whatever is owed in child support at the time of the modification remains. That is why it is so important to modify a child support order as soon as possible. It can be easy to imagine that a change in circumstances, such as a lowered income, may be temporary and so no modification is necessary. If recently disabled or ill, the paying parent may not even be thinking about child support obligations and concentrating on recovery. However, even a month or two of unaffordable payments can make catching up difficult.

That is why it is important to act quickly. If the job loss occurred three months before the paying parent decided to petition to modify child support, he or she is still on the hook for those payments.

An attorney can help

Parents seeking to lower their child support payments should immediately contact an experienced family law attorney in order to maintain financial viability and ensure they are not paying more than they can afford.