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If I change jobs, will I owe more child support?

Non-custodial parents who pay child support might wonder what changes, if any, a new job with a higher salary will have on the amount of child support they must pay to their exes. The short (and not very helpful) answer is "it depends."

Going in depth a bit, support-paying parents may be relieved to know that there are no automatic changes to your court-ordered support as a result of a salary increase. The parent who receives the support payments must petition the court in order to modify a child support order.

Likewise, should you lose your job and no longer be able to afford making the payments, you will also have to return to court to get the payments lowered. Unless and until a support modification is filed and signed by the judge, the paying spouse is responsible for paying the sum listed in the child support order.

When modifying the terms or amount of court-ordered support, Orange County family law judges consider many factors. The determining elements must qualify as "substantial change[s] in circumstances."

It bears noting that when parents agree on the amount and terms of a proposed child support modification, the judge will typically approve it as long as the kids' needs remain met.

There are numerous reasons why parents seek to lower or raise the court-ordered child support amounts. Some modifications may only be temporary. An example of this might be a parent who was burned out in the recent horrific wildfires in southern California and who no longer has a home or a job.

Other temporary circumstances may include a short-term financial hardship or a medical emergency.

Other reasons include:

  • Increased cost of living
  • Incarceration of either parent
  • Significant changes in the children's needs
  • Unemployment of either parent
  • Changes in salary or other income
  • Remarriage by either parent
  • California child support laws change
  • A parent is declared to be disabled

Swift action is necessary when a support order needs to be modified, as the current order remains in force and unpaid support quickly mounts, which can place a non-paying parent in legal jeopardy.

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