Two leading factors used to determine child support in California are each parent’s income and parenting time with the child. The higher-earning parent typically pays child support to the other parent. The less time the payor parent spends with their child, the higher their child support obligation usually is.
All the data calculated into child support can change over time. What previously made sense may not anymore. With inflation at a 40-year high, many parents are feeling the extreme pinch of their dollars not going as far as they once did.
One way to safeguard a parent’s ability to adequately care for their children is to include cost-of-living (COLA) clauses in the child support agreement.
COLA Clauses Simplify Child Support Adjustments
The state’s guidelines on child support obligations are applicable whether the parents reach an agreement on support, or a judge makes the determination. The state also realizes that changes happen in our lives that necessitate a change to the support amount. While the state offers a means by which a parent can seek modifications to child support, doing so is not feasible on a regular basis.
A COLA clause in a child support agreement will trigger an automatic annual reappraisal of child support based on the current cost of living. There is no need to go to court and ask for a change. When there is no shift in the cost of living, child support will remain unaltered.
Not only can couples choose to include COLA clauses, but a judge also has the authority to include such a stipulation in their court order. Without COLA provisions, the payment requirement does not automatically increase.
Additional Grounds for Child Support Modifications
COLA clauses can adjust support for inflation, but they do not cover all financial changes that occur in a family. California law provides specific grounds on which either parent may ask for a child support modification that reduces or increases the obligation of the payor parent.
Circumstances in which a parent can seek a child support modification include the following:
- The income of either parent increases or decreases
- There are significant changes to the cost of the child’s health care, child care, or education
- A parent becomes incarcerated
- A parent is fired or laid off
- A parent has a child from another relationship
- The parenting time of the parents changes significantly
- A parent becomes disabled or seriously ill
- A parent is deployed to active military service
Small adjustments are typically not approved. The general rule is modification may be granted if the support order changes by at least 20% or $50, whichever is less.
Modifications Can Be Decided by the Parents
Parents do not have to file a motion with the court asking for the modification. When parents come to an agreement on their own, they can present the written stipulation to the judge. Once signed by the judge, the stipulation becomes the new order. The increase (or decrease) will remain in effect unless or until another modification is made.
Child support is mandated until the child turns 18 (or 19 if enrolled in high school). Parents can agree to pay support beyond that point, such as to cover the cost of higher education.
Legal Counsel for Child Support Modification
Either parent may reach a point where circumstances compel them to desire a change in how much they receive or pay in child support. At Gille Kaye Law Group, PC, our accomplished and recognized attorneys look beyond the surface to offer personalized legal representation for each and every client. Our goal is to help our clients reach their desired outcomes.
If you need help negotiating child support or modifying an existing order, schedule a consultation by calling (626) 340-0955 or contacting us online.