Modifications and Enforcement
Generally, child and spousal support orders may be modified or terminated at any time as the court determines to be necessary. California Family Code §3651. The Law Offices of Debra J. Rice has over 20 years of experience dealing with complex modification procedures.
Support will most likely be deemed either temporary (pendent lite) or permanent. A permanent order is one that is given after the proceedings are concluded and the court renders the final order in regards to child and spousal support. On the other hand, temporary support is usually support issued at the outset of the case. In the spousal support context, it is intended to maintain the status quo of the parties’ marital standard of living while married and living together. In the case of child support, it is intended to maintain the status quo of the child’s lifestyle during the parties’ marriage or cohabitation.
In order to obtain a modification of child or spousal support, the court often requires that a “material change in circumstances” occurs before a modification will even be heard. However, a modification of temporary child or spousal support does not technically require such a standard. By definition, a temporary order can be changed anytime, and for any reason the court deems proper. This means that a temporary order may be modified pending the finality of the case. On the other hand, a permanent order requires a post-judgment material change in circumstances.
Statutory procedures for modification of child support typically require the party seeking modification to introduce evidence of changed circumstances. “Changed circumstances” are determined on a case-by-case basis. However, the court has held that fluctuations in need or ability to pay are sufficient. Again, need and ability are determined on a case-by-case basis. In re Marriage of Leonard, 14 Cal.Rptr.3d 482.
Sometimes a child support modification can be issued retroactively if there is good cause; meaning that if the support payment is in arrears (behind), the court may allow for the modified support to be applied “as of” the date the support order became modifiable. Whether there is good cause to deny retroactivity requires balancing the children’s needs at the time with then-existing ability of parents (both custodial and noncustodial) to provide child support. The primary focus is to ensure, if possible, that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support. California Family Code §3653.
There are two phases where spousal support may be requested. The first is for temporary spousal support, and may be awarded in an effort to maintain the status quo during marriage. During this time, modification can be made at any time and for any reason. However, the court still maintains discretion to modify the prior order. The second type of modification is called a post judgment modification (after a permanent spousal support has been made). Here, the court will require a “material change in circumstances,” as discussed above, in order to modify the prior support order. Similarly to the modification of child support, what constitutes a material change in circumstances is fact intensive and is decided on a case-by-case basis.
The Law Offices of Debra J. Rice, APC is dedicated to helping parents obtain, modify, and enforce child support orders in order to fulfill the best interests of their children. The Law Offices of Debra J. Rice has over 19 years of practice in the area of family law and child custody matters. We serve all of Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties. Please contact us for a free consultation.
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