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What should I know about child support modifications?

Were you ordered by the court to pay child support to your ex-spouse? Has your situation changed since the order was made? If you said yes to both of these questions, then you might be considering a child support modification. But just like so many of our readers, you might have some trepidation about requesting a change to your support payments. You might even have some questions about the process that we will hopefully be able to answer in this week’s post.

While some people might get a child support modification because their financial situation has improved and they are able to pay more support to their ex-spouse, many other people need to get a modification for the opposite reason. It’s important to remember though that there are a lot of factors that judges take into consideration when determining child support amounts. This means that even if your income has decreased, this might not be enough to support a request for a modified payment amount.

A lot of people think too that modifications are requested by only one parent. But here in the state of California, one or both parents may request a change to the order. It’s important to point out though that the petitioner or petitioners must “show that there has been a ‘change in circumstances‘ since the last child support order was made.”

If parents are able to come to an agreement about a new amount, they may submit the amount for a judge’s review. But if an agreement cannot be reached, then one parent will need to file a motion for modification.

It’s considered a good idea, when reaching a verbal agreement with your ex-spouse regarding modifications for child support payments, to get that agreement in writing. Not having physical proof of an agreement has been known to create legal problems for some couples, particularly if it has not been signed by a judge. It’s worth noting too that if a judge does not sign a new court order that reflects the modification, then the terms of the existing order will not change and could still be enforced.

Sources:, “Your Legal Corner: Modification of a child support order,” June 22, 2014, “Changing a Child Support Order,” Accessed June 24, 2014