When a couple divorces in California, the divorce decree will include child support, spousal support, or perhaps both. Whether these agreements are made through negotiated settlements or by a judge, the fact is the decree is a formal court order, and making changes to it is not easy. However, that does not mean child or spousal support payments cannot be modified in these situations.Whether you are the spouse making payments or receiving payments, here are some important facts to keep in mind prior to speaking with a child support attorney.
Material Change of Circumstances
In California, courts are very stringent on entertaining requests for modifying child support and spousal support payments. If they were not, there would likely be a nonstop flow of requests from spouses who are never satisfied with the details of their divorce decree. However, since these decrees are meant to be final, any modifications require a spouse to show the court a verifiable material change of circumstances before any modifications will be considered.
Child Support Modifications
Since the court will always put the best interests of children ahead of almost anything else in a divorce proceeding, it is often very hesitant to make modifications to child support payments. However, if certain factors exist and can be proven to the court, modifications may occur. These factors can include:
–Loss of job by a spouse
–One spouse getting a raise or promotion
–New sources of income (lottery winnings, etc.)
–Changes in custodial or visitation rights
If one or more of these factors can be proven to a court, modifications leading to an increase or decrease in child support payments may be granted.
Spousal Support Modifications
While child support modifications can often be difficult to obtain, spousal support modifications can in some cases be easier to obtain. Since spousal support, also referred to as alimony, is meant to allow a spouse to enjoy a lifestyle they had during the marriage for a reasonable amount of time, it may be possible to request and be granted modifications for either party. Factors used in this include:
–Paying spouse loss of income source
–Receiving spouse getting a new job
–Receiving spouse losing job or being unable to get a job
–Receiving spouse getting remarried or living with new partner
While many of these factors seem very straightforward, there are always many nuances involved when requesting modifications under these circumstances. Therefore, always consult with an experienced and knowledgeable child support attorney before proceeding with any modification requests.
Regardless of the situation, it is important to remember that for a paying spouse, any child support or spousal support payment obligations will continue until a modification is made to the existing court order. Therefore, failing to make payments as previously agreed to can have severe legal consequences, and should not be taken lightly. Thus, if you have any questions regarding your current payment agreement and how to make certain modifications, schedule a consultation with a child support attorney as soon as possible.