Can I Change the Amount of Child Support I Pay?

In general, once a court assigns a child support order, it must be obeyed. The paying parent is required to meet his or her financial obligation to the recipient each month to contribute to the cost of childcare. However, if one parent’s circumstances substantially change after the child support order is given, the courts may grant a modification request.

Do Not Make a Private Agreement

Parents should never work out a different child support agreement between the two of them after one has been ordered by a judge in California. Unless the courts approve a different amount, the paying parent will still be responsible on paper for the full amount owed to the other parent, regardless of the amount that both parents privately agreed on. This means that at any time in the future, the recipient could take the paying party to court and demand the full unpaid amount, and the paying party would legally have to pay.

Sign a Stipulated Agreement

If both parents agree to the change in the amount of child support, they can sign a stipulated agreement and file it with the court that assigned the original order. A stipulated agreement is a different child support amount that both parties agree to, meaning the case does not have to go to trial for a hearing. Both parents can sign the stipulated agreement and file it with the court to obtain the signature of a judge. This is the simplest way to legally change the amount of child support that a parent must pay.

Receive a Modification Order

If one parent wants to change the amount of child support, but the other parent does not agree, the case will have to go to court. At any time after the courts have given a child support order in California, either parent can request a change or modification to increase or decrease the amount of the order. However, for the courts to grant the modification request, there must be proof of a significant change in circumstance. Common examples include:

  • The loss of a job
  • A substantial pay cut or demotion
  • A new or additional job
  • A substantial increase in income
  • Child custody or visitation changes
  • More children being supported
  • A change in the child’s needs
  • A new disability
  • Incarceration
  • Military service deployment

A “substantial” change in circumstance typically means enough to require the support order to change by 20 percent or $50, whichever is less. When seeking a child support modification, you will need proof of the change, such as pay stubs or medical records. You may also have to show that the change is not temporary and was not anticipated at the time of the original order. Finally, you may have to wait until a certain amount of time has passed since receiving the first order to request a modification.

Request a Review of Your Child Support Order

If you believe the circumstances have changed enough to qualify you to pay less in child support or to require your ex-spouse to pay more, request a review of your child support order by a child support enforcement agency near you. An agency can look over your specific circumstances to determine if your order needs adjusting based on your financial situation and other circumstances. 

If a modification appears warranted, you can try to work out an agreement with your ex or file a modification request with the courts. You may need assistance from a child support attorney in San Diego during court proceedings to modify your order. A lawyer can help you prove the grounds for your modification request and open a case in your county. If you wish to fight your ex-spouse’s child support modification request, your lawyer can assist you with this, as well.