Mom and daughter

If COVID-19 Changes My Income, Can I Modify My Child Support Obligation?

Yes, if there has been a “change in circumstance” due to COVID-19, one or both parents can request a modification of the existing child support order. Keep in mind that your child support obligation will not change until you have changed it with the court. Additionally, the process is much simpler if both parents agree on the new amount.

What Is a Change in Circumstance?

In California, a change of circumstance includes a change of income. Other reasons for a change of circumstance include:

  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Incarceration (one parent is in jail)
  • New children (one parent adds a new member to their family)
  • Changes in child custody and the time the child spends with each parent
  • Changes in the child’s needs (childcare, health care, education, etc.)
  • Other changes in the factors used to calculate child support

When calculating child support, family law courts consider parents’ monthly income, tax obligations, spousal support, health insurance, hardships, marital status, and children from other relationships.

If one parent gets married or divorced, has or adopts a new child, loses their job, falls on hardship, joins the military, goes to jail, or even gets in trouble with the IRS, these life events can constitute a change in circumstance.

Modifying Child Support When Both Parents Agree

Modifying child support is easier when both parents agree on what the change should be. If both parents agree on the new amount, they can simply write it up as a “stipulated agreement” and give it to the judge. Once the judge signs off, the stipulation will become a new order.

What If the Parents Disagree?

When parents cannot agree on a change in child support, one of the parents must file a motion with the court asking for a modification. If you ask for a modification, you will need proof of:

  • Your income and expenses
  • Any childcare expenses
  • Any unemployment benefits or retirement income you receive
  • Your current custody and visitation arrangements
  • Your disability status
  • Your jail or prison status (if you are incarcerated)
  • Your medical insurance information

After reviewing all this information, as well as any other information the parents provide, the court will decide whether to grant a modification. Generally, courts grant modifications that change the support order by 20% or less.

COVID-19 Considerations

Keep in mind that many California courts are behind because of COVID-19 delays. Child support payments have been stuck in the mailroom due to processing delays, and many child support offices are closed for the health and safety of staff and customers.

Once again, your obligation does not end or change without permission from a judge. Until your child support order is modified or terminated, your child support is still due. The court may withhold child support from your unemployment benefits and even your stimulus checks. That being said, the automated action for Bank Levies has been shut down since March 17, 2020.

If you have lost your job or had your income affected as a result of COVID-19, speak to your co-parent first, then take the appropriate action in court. Double-check your child support payments, especially if you are not signed up for direct deposit or your child support payments come directly out of your paycheck and you are experiencing unpaid time off.

Should you need help or experience any difficulties, we encourage you to speak to an attorney. Fenchel Family Law can help you navigate any situation involving child custody and support during this difficult time. Our reputable and respected team offers personalized attention and a holistic approach. We will always be honest and straightforward with you while we help you make the changes you need for a positive future.

Ready to get started? Call us at (415) 650-1112 or contact us online and schedule a consultation today.

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