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Changing the terms of an order for child support

Many people in Sacramento who endure a divorce proceeding find that their financial circumstances change after the divorce is completed. One of the ex-spouses may become unemployed or suffer a demotion that reduces their salary. Occasionally, one of the spouses or a child will suffer a medical crisis that results in unexpected bills. Sometimes, a change has the opposite effect - an ex-spouse may receive an unexpected promotion with a significant increase in income. In all of these circumstances, the original order for child support may suddenly seem unfair. What can be done about it?

If the ex-spouses cannot agree on how to change the existing order, one or both may bring a motion to modify the original order before the court that signed the original order. The motion must show that the parties have experienced a "change in circumstances" since the last child support order was signed. Many different reasons may require a modification of the original order:

  • The income of one or bother parents has changed;
  • One parent has lost his or her job;
  • One parent has been incarcerated;
  • One parent has had another child in another relationship;
  • The time that the child spends with either parent may have changed; or
  • The child's needs for childcare, health care or education may have changed.

This list is not exhaustive. Other changed circumstances may require modification of the child support order.

The motion, along with any supporting evidence, must be filed with the court and served on the other parent. The court will set a date for oral argument on the motion and will thereafter issue a written order. The order that is issued in response to the motion will become the controlling order and cannot be changed without another motion and hearing. Asking a court to modify a child support order almost always involves a court appearance.

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