Financially providing for one’s children is not an obligation that becomes obsolete after parents decide to divorce. When a judge in a California family court issues a child support order, it always stems from a decision being made according to what the court believes will best protect the children’s best interests. Whether a particular parent is making regular support payments or is receiving payments to provide for his or her children, if he or she believes a change in the plan is warranted, a petition for modification can be filed in court.
It is important that every parent paying child support understands that it is unlawful to disregard the terms of an existing court order, even if he or she has a legitimate reason to stop making payments or to adjust the amount of the payments. In fact, if a parent were to stop making payments or change a payment amount with the court’s permission, the judge overseeing the case can hold him or her in contempt. This is why modification must be sought through the proper procedure, and the request must be granted by the court before the parent in question makes any changes to his or her current arrangement.
Issues that typically warrant modification include unexpected changes in income, legal trouble, such as incarceration, as well as a remarriage that has brought children into the household. If a parent loses a job or the custodial parent’s income increases, such issues may also influence the court’s decision on whether a support order modification is justified under the circumstances. Even if both parents agree that modification of a child support order is needed, a formal request must still be made (and granted) through the court system.
In California and elsewhere, family court judges do not look favorably on parents who fail to meet their child support obligations. If a custodial parent believes an increase in payments is needed or a paying parent has reason to request a payment decrease, he or she can seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. Such an attorney can provide guidance and support to make sure a parent is following proper procedure to request modification of an existing court order or seek the court’s intervention if a co-parent is not making payments as ordered.