Raising a child is often an expensive endeavor. After all, not only must you fund everyday expenses, but you likely must also cover educational, extracurricular, medical and other costs. However, if you are unable to pay your monthly bills, trying to keep up with child support can be tremendously stressful. If you are struggling to comply with your child support obligation, you may have some options.
When making child support orders, judges consider the best interests of the child. Accordingly, because a judge has already determined your monthly payments are necessary for your child to thrive, he or she may be reluctant to lower them. Still, California law provides a framework for modifying existing child support orders.
A material change in circumstances
If you want a judge to reduce the amount of child support you must pay, you have the burden of showing a material change in circumstances. That is, circumstances must be meaningfully different now than they were when the judge made his or her initial order. The following are common examples of material changes in circumstances:
- A change in either parent’s parenting time
- A change in either parent’s income
- A change in either parent’s employment
- A change in either parent’s family makeup
- A change in either parent’s relationship status
- A change in the child’s needs
To prove a material change in circumstances, you may need to gather extensive documentation. Gathering pay stubs, tax returns, child-related documents and other similar records is usually a good first step.
An agreement with your child’s co-parent
Your child’s co-parent may recognize your inability to comply with your existing support order. If so, you may be able to negotiate a lower payment amount. Your support order, though, remains in effect until a judge modifies it. Therefore, you must seek approval from the judge before relying on any agreement you make with your former spouse.