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Why is timely filing of a support order modification essential?

During a divorce, spousal support is determined based on a number of factors. However, the income and assets of both spouses are generally a prime consideration. The same is true when domestic partners break up and one is ordered to pay support to the other.

However, many things change in people’s lives that can impact the payer’s ability to make these payments. Changes in the recipient’s life or financial needs can also impact how much support he or she needs. In these cases, California law provides for the ability to modify the support order.

Too often, people put off asking for a change to the order if they lose a job or experience a decrease in income. While it’s understandable that these are stressful situations, it’s essential to act as quickly as possible to get the order changed.

Payment order changes are effective the day you file the necessary papers. They are not retroactive back to the date that your income changed. Therefore, if you don’t get around to requesting the change until weeks or months later, you still owe the amount designated in the original order for that period.

If the former couple can agree on a new payment amount, the process is relatively simple. They draft a new order and submit it to a judge for signature. Don’t rely on a verbal agreement with your ex to lower the payments. Get the new order in place. Otherwise, you can be held responsible for your previous support amount.

If the two people cannot agree on the need for a change or the amount, it will be necessary for the person requesting it to go to court to seek a “modification.” Sometimes this occurs when the payer feels that his or her ex is not making enough effort to become self-supporting. When the recipient remarries or obtains another source of support, the payer can also request that the support end.

The legal and financial consequences of not paying spousal or partner support obligations fully and in a timely manner can be serious. Therefore, if you are not able to fulfill those obligations, you should take action through the courts to make the necessary modifications. In many cases, people rely on the family law attorney who represented them when they and their spouse or partner split to help them take the required legal steps.

Source: California Courts: The Judicial Branch of California, “Changing (or Ending) a Spousal/Partner Support Order,” accessed July 30, 2015