Can I Reduce my Child Support If I can No Longer Afford to pay? How is it done?

Generally, the answer is yes, a person may modify child support if they can no longer afford to pay or if there have been other circumstances that have changed since the order was made.

In order to modify a court order for child support, the party seeking the modification bears the burden of proof to demonstrate that there has been a material change of circumstances since the most recent order. Because the court maintains continuing jurisdiction, this rule applies whether the order being modified is “temporary” support while the divorce was still in Court or if the support order was made due to a “final” judgment. There are some additional procedural hurdles to change a final judgment but otherwise the law is the same.

So, you must be wondering what does qualify as a “material change in circumstances” that allows a person to request child support be changed?  Common examples of factual changes in circumstances include changes in the following:

1. Change in Income of a party – this could mean that you now make less or the other parent makes more;A child’s age – especially in reaching age 18 or graduating High School – whichever is later;

2. A child’s needs – for example, the support was sufficient when the child was three but now that they are 13 the cost to support the child is higher. Perhaps they need special education or have medical needs that did not exist at the time the support order was made;

3. The parties’ custodial status or arrangement for time-sharing of the child – for example, when the support order was made the parents split custody time 50/50, but now one parent lives in another state and they only see the kids in the summer; and

4. The cost of living – support was made 15 years earlier and now the cost of rent, food, gas needed to support the child has gone up.   Note, though, that although the passage of time alone generally does not constitute a changed circumstance, time passage potentially may constitute a changed circumstance warranting an upward support modification when it can be demonstrated that the cost of living has increased over time and that the cost of raising children has increased as they get older.

So, now you must be wondering what steps need to be taken in order to have the support changed?

It is very important that one understands that a court order is necessary to change the support order.  Notwithstanding, a person’s ability to pay they will be responsible for unpaid support until they request the Court make an Order to change the support.  The Court will not accept an argument that the condition that necessitated the change happened a year or two ago. This means that a person needs to proactively petition the court to change the support and serve the other party with that petition as soon as the event necessitating the change occurs.

There are many procedural hurdles that also must be met and if not can derail or delay the request for change in support.  Our experienced Orange County Family Law Attorneys can help you determine if you qualify to request a change in support.

To learn more about this topic or family law in general visit the Core Law Group Blog at or contact either our Los Angeles or Orange County Offices toll free at 888-652-5529 or 949-505-2479.