Once a court has entered an order of child support in California, it typically remains in effect until the child reaches 18 years of age and graduates high school or reaches 19 years of age. In the meantime, parents who wish to modify the terms of the support order must usually demonstrate to the court that a change in circumstances has occurred.

Changes in circumstances that may warrant a modification of the child support order include, but are not limited to, a parent’s incarceration, loss of income or increase in income. If the needs of the child have changed, with regard to health care or education, for example, or if the amount of time each parent spends with the child has changed significantly, these may also warrant a modification of the support order.

If the amount of support ordered by the court was less than that suggested by the California guidelines, a parent may ask for a modification at any time, even if there has not been a change in circumstances. Additionally, the parents may agree between themselves to a modification of support. Upon the judge’s approval, the agreement takes effect. Note that a modification does not take effect until it is approved and an order is entered by the court. Until that time, the parents continue to be bound by the previous order, regardless of any verbal or other agreements.

In a case where the parents are unable to come to agreement, the parent seeking the child support modification must file a motion with the court. A family law attorney may be able to help a parent seek modification by evaluating the facts to determine whether a qualifying change in circumstances has occurred or by attempting to facilitate agreement with the other parent.

Source: California Courts, “Changing a Child Support Order,” Judicial Council of California, Sept. 29, 2014

Source: California Courts, “Child Support“, September 29, 2014