Change in Income Could Mean A Modification of Support

Child and spousal support

California allows courts to issue orders for child and spousal support in appropriate situations. Child support orders are issued to one or both parents to pay a specific amount of money to help support the child. Spousal support orders, on the other hand, are issued for one spouse to pay the other spouse a certain amount of support money each month to help provide sufficient income for basic needs of the spouse to help them maintain a consistent lifestyle.

Each support order is based off of a certain set of factors. If parents cannot agree to an amount for child support, the court will decide on an amount based on the guidelines, which include how much each parent earns or can earn and how much income each parent takes home. For spousal support orders, one of the factors taken into consideration in the amount of the support is what each person pays or can pay to keep the standard of living that was present during the marriage.

Once a support order is issued, a change of circumstances must be shown in order to have the original order modified. For child support orders, a change in circumstances can occur one or both parents has a change in income. If both parents can agree to the change in the amount of support, a new stipulation can be written and given to a judge to sign off on and entered to become effective. However, if the parents cannot agree on a change in the support amount, one parent must file a motion with the court asking for a modification. More than likely, the parents will be required to appear for a hearing where there will be an opportunity to present federal and state income tax returns, pay stubs, and W-2 forms in order for a judge to determine whether a modification based on change in circumstances related to income is allowable.

A spousal support order can also be modified for a change in income to one spouse. However, if there is a significant change in income, the spouse experiencing the change should act quickly and file a petition to have the order changed immediately.  A judge will not backdate a support order to when the change in income occurred. Because of this, if one spouse has a drop in income, for any reason, and falls behind on support, that spouse will be responsible for the entire support amount owed. Since a judge can only modify a support order from the date of the petition, it is imperative that the spouse files a petition for modification as soon as the change in income occurs. Once a petition is filed, a hearing will be set. During the hearing, the spouse will be able to present supporting documentation to show the change in income. If a modification is granted, an order must be prepared, signed and filed before it can become effective.

If you are looking to modify your spousal or child support order, it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney like Jane Wesley Brooks, CFLS. Contact JWB Family Law to schedule a consultation.
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