You have several options depending on your circumstances. If you currently have a court order requiring you to pay either child or spousal support, the order must be modified by a subsequent court order. Otherwise, your monthly obligation to pay child and/or spousal support in the same amount will continue to accrue on a monthly basis, until such time as a court order modifying your obligation is entered. Do not simply stop paying support or decrease your payments on your own. This could subject you to compounding interest and other penalties, as well as enforcement procedures, which could detrimentally impact your credit or your driver’s license, or put you at risk of a lien, levy, or revenue recapture by the IRS, in addition to repayment of the support owed.
In order to qualify for a support modification, you must present evidence of a change of circumstance which is outside of your control since the current support order was made. For example, a change in circumstances might be that your income has substantially decreased because you were laid off from your job, because you have lost key customers or because your income primarily consisted of interest and dividends and the market downturn has severely impacted your cash flow.
In order to obtain a support modification, you can attempt to modify the support order one of two ways. You can attempt to obtain a voluntary modification between you and the support payee. This method assumes the payee is aware of your changed circumstances and would like to cooperate for the purpose of saving time and/or attorney’s fees and costs. The modification with this option would involve a Stipulation and Order. If you and the support payee do not agree, you must file a motion with the Court under the appropriate Family Code sections asking the Court to decrease your obligation. The Court will review all of the relevant facts and circumstances and determine whether you qualify for a modification. The Court could impose certain terms and conditions or set a future court date by which you need to report back regarding the status of your employment or income. Be prepared that the Court will not terminate your obligation to pay support and may only award you a temporary modification until your circumstances improve.
Robyn Santucci, Esq., C.F.L.S.