Modifications to a California Divorce Decree or Support Order

Requesting Changes in Custody, Child Support, or Spousal Support

aj modificationsThe only constant in life is change, and changes in life circumstances and the lives of your children may warrant a post-decree modification of divorce orders involving:

  • Enforcement or “Contempt Action”
  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support

If a former spouse is not complying with the orders of the Court it may be necessary to file a “contempt action” with the Court. This can result from the failure to keep visitation schedules to issues with support payments or other expenses related to the child or spousal support.

In California, “Contempt” occurs when a person:

  • Is aware that a court order exists
  • Had the capacity or ability to comply with the original order, and Knowingly Chose Not to Comply
  • Has No Valid Reason or Excuse for Failing to Comply

The purpose of a contempt action is to bring the other party into compliance. The burden of proof in these cases in California is on the accuser, so your attorney must be prepared for the myriad of excuses why the other party was “unable to comply” with the orders of the court.  However, the Court may not only force the other party to come into compliance, they may issue fines, pay your attorney’s fees, and provide additional time with the child or children to offset time lost due to the contemptuous acts of the other party.

Post-Decree Modification of Child Custody or Support Orders

AJ KM 2There are multiple reasons for requesting a modification to child custody or child support orders. San Diego area Courts look for a “substantial change in circumstances” of one or both of the parties.  These can include a significant change in income or the loss of a job, relocation, illness, or the welfare of the child.  If both spouses were employed at the time of the termination of the marriage, and one loses their job, this may be considered a “substantial change” requiring modification in the existing child support orders.

A substantial increase in income and quality of living may justify a request of the court to increase child visitation and parenting time. If there are issues such as drug or alcohol abuse, neglect or issues of safety a Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed to study the issue and make recommendations for modification that the Court will agree to hear.  Other issues can include significant changes in the child’s behavior at school and academic performance, interference of visitation and parenting time, or health concerns.  It is a myth that an older child may request to change parental residence.  This is not considered just cause for a modification request.  The wishes of the minor may be considered by the Court, but are not enough on their own to warrant a modification.

Post Decree Modification of Spousal Support in CaliforniaAJ Child Support

Modification of spousal support in San Diego can be a complicated matter. Usually, the original order for spousal support was based upon the length of the marriage and the financial circumstances and lifestyle of the parties.  In most cases, the original divorce decree will contain language that either gives the Court continuing jurisdiction over the matter, or prohibits any changes to the original orders after the decree is issued.

If the Court maintained jurisdiction, or ordered one of the parties to become “independent and self-sustaining” post decree spousal support modifications may be requested. Even if the language of the original agreement prohibits changes, there is California case law that may establish an opportunity to seek modification if the change in circumstances was not taken into consideration by either of the parties or the original Court at the time of the prior order.

Contact an Experienced Certified Family Law Specialist to Modify Your Support Orders or Divorce Decree

These are complex matters, and it is best to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced California Certified Family Law Specialist. If you are interested in seeking changes to child custody and visitation or support orders, or modifications or termination of spousal support we invite you to contact us or call (760) 639-0187 for more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family law attorneys.