Once a court makes a final determination that a party must pay either spousal support or child support, the court will issue a support order. That support order will generally remain binding for the duration of the order, but either party (both the supporting party and the supported party or his or her representative) may seek a termination or modification of court orders at any time. At the Law Offices of Andy Cook in San Diego, we help people through the process of modifying or terminating support orders (or protecting the support order when another seeks to modify or terminate it) while ensuring that the rights and interests of the parties and those of their children are preserved and protected now and into the future.
When a Party May File for Modification or Termination of a Support Order
While both the supporting and supported party may file for a modification at any time, the ability of the parties to modify and/or terminate a support order is subject to a number of limitations. For example, a court will not retroactively modify or terminate a support order, meaning payments that were due prior to the filing of the action for modification will not be affected by a grant of modification or termination, so any party seeking to modify or terminate an order should act as quickly as possible to do so. Once a modification order is issued, however, a party receiving support payments may be required to repay some portion of the support payments retroactively to the date of filing. A court will also not modify or terminate an order for spousal support where it was based on an agreement between the parties that included an agreement that the support would not be subject to termination or modification.
Note that the California family law code provides special modification procedures to those parties who are activated to US military duty or National Guard services.
How California Courts Decide Whether to Modify or Terminate a Support Order
After a proceeding for modification or termination of a support order is commenced, the court may request paystubs and tax returns from both parties as well as statements about the parties’ current income and expenses. It is very important that these documents be completed accurately and truthfully, as the court may impose sanctions on parties who fail to do so.
The court will then consider the current circumstances of both parties to the support order, and if it determines that the circumstances of one or both of the parties has significantly changed since the initial order, and the party asking for the modification or termination would significantly benefit from the change, the court may order that the original support be terminated or modified. The court can look at any number of factors in determining whether it would be fair to change the order, focusing on whether the situations of those parties have changed since when the order was first made. Factors the court will look at include:
- Whether one or both of the parents has lost his or her job
- Whether one or both of the parents has experience a change in income, either up or down;
- How much time each parent is currently spending with the child
- Whether the needs of the child has changed (health needs, education needs, etc.)
A court has discretion to modify the order, either providing for more or less to be paid under the order, or to set aside the order altogether, but it will have to be convinced that the situation for the parties involved has changed significantly before it will order the modification or termination.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation in California Child and Spousal Support Support Modification Matters
Because the courts have such wide discretion in determining whether to modify or terminate child and spousal support orders, and the effects of such a modification and/or termination can be experienced by all parties involved for many years to come, it is in your best interest to have your interests and rights well represented when seeking to modify or terminate a support order or in protecting an order from being modified or terminated. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Andy Cook possess the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to provide you with the representation you need in this critical area.