Modification of Child Support in California

Proper grounds to modify and defenses to modification of child support

California Child Support Modifications

California child support modifications are common. Rarely does the initial child support order stay the final order. Even the order at judgment is often modified if there are certain change of circumstances.

On this page, we will look at some of the more common grounds for modifying child support.

For a parent to modify the child support order, that parent must show a material change of circumstances occurred after the court's order

This material change of circumstances standard applies to both modification of temporary orders and the judgment order.

Child support modifications start by the parent who files a request for order, checks off on the forms that he or she requests a child support modification and then provides the appropriate declaration, income and expense declaration and additional documents to demonstrate justification for the modification.

The most common examples of why a parent may seek a child support modification include:

1. Change in income for either parent, or

2. A change in parenting time for either parent.

A change in income simply means either parent’s income increased or decreased

If the supporting parent seeks modification of child support, chances are that parent's income went down or the other parent's income went up. If the supported parent seeks a modification, chances are that parent's income went down or the supporting parent's income went up.

A change in parenting time can also lead to a modification request

For example, assume the supporting parent now exercises more time with the child or children than he or she did at the time of the child support order. If the child support order was actually based on that previous, lesser time, this may be a proper ground for modification.

While these are the most common reasons for a child support modification, they are not the only reasons

I am sometimes asked whether the fact that a parent can still continue to afford to pay the child support can prevent that parent from seeking modification even though that parent's income decreased.

In certain limited circumstances, I think the answer to that question may be yes. Some of the more common examples of this are in cases where the supporting parent has significant assets such that his or her income isn't much of a factor in his or her ability to pay. These are exceptional cases and not the norm.

Both a stipulated order and an order after a contested hearing can be modified

It generally does not matter whether the order either parent seeks to modify is a stipulated order, which means it was by agreement, or an order that resulted after a contested hearing. Either is subject to modification.

If the order sought to be modified was, at the time it was made, below the guideline amount, the supported parent may be able to seek a modification without showing a material change in circumstances. This is rare in cases where there was an actual hearing because the judge would have had to make findings regarding each parent's income. This is more common in those situations where the parents stipulated to a child support amount that was less than guideline. Just because a parent can seek a modification in the circumstance does not mean it will be easy.

What happens in a situation when the parents agree to a support number that is above guideline?

Unfortunately for that supporting parent, he or she still has to show there is a material change in circumstance since that order.

Regarding termination of child support, that is governed by California Family Code 3901. This code section states the following:

“(a) The duty of support imposed by Section 3900 continues as to an unmarried child who has attained the age of 18 years, is a full-time high school student, and who is not self-supporting, until the time the child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19 years, whichever occurs first.


(b) Nothing in this section limits a parent's ability to agree to provide additional support or the court's power to inquire whether an agreement to provide additional support has been made.”

We hope you found this page on child support modifications helpful.