The recent economic downturn has left thousands of Californians without jobs. If you are one of them, you may be struggling to pay your monthly bills. If a court has ordered you to pay child support, though, your unemployment does not absolve you. That is, regardless of your employment status, you have a legal obligation to pay child support. 

In California, either the paying or the receiving parent may request a modification of a child support order. To do so, though, the requester must show there is a significant change in circumstances. 

What qualifies as a change in circumstances?  

If you have lost your job, you may want to ask a judge to lower the amount of child support you must pay. Unemployment usually counts as an acceptable change in circumstances for child support purposes. Here are some other situations that may also qualify: 

  • A change in parenting time 
  • A change in the child’s needs 
  • A change in family structure 
  • A change in other income 

Is your unemployment voluntary? 

With today’s economic climate, many unemployed individuals have little choice but to be out of work. Nonetheless, if a judge determines your unemployment is voluntary, he or she may not agree to lower your support obligations. Even worse, when you ask a court to rework your child support, you risk having the judge increase the amount you must pay. You must carefully document your change in circumstances to boost your odds of receiving a favorable outcome. 

Does a modification help with missed payments? 

Judges do not typically have the authority to make support modifications retroactively. Accordingly, your modification petition is apt to have little effect on missed payments. Still, seeking a modification of your support order may allow you to catch up the past payments you could not make. 

With some luck, the current economic calamity will not last long. If you are having trouble paying child support, you likely need an immediate solution. Understanding what it takes to modify a support order is key.