Are You Unemployed or About to be Terminated? If You Pay Child or Spousal Support, You Must Seek a Court Order to Reduce Your Support Obligations

In these tough economic times, finding oneself unemployed is not unusual. If you have been ordered to pay child support or spousal support, California family law courts will only reduce your support obligation due to your change of income if you take immediate action. Thus, if you become unemployed, or receive notice that you will be terminated, you need a new court order.

Filing an Order to Show Cause to modify or terminate support is a necessary step towards legally lowering your support obligation. Self-help is not a legal method to use to reduce your support obligation (i.e., you cannot unilaterally stop paying support). Also, an oral agreement with your ex or the custodial parent of your children to reduce or terminate support is not legally enforceable and can result in you still owing the amount in the court order. Upon the filing of an Order to Show Cause, a support order can be modified downward due to a payor’s unemployment, and California courts have the discretion to make the new support order retroactive to the later of: (1) the filing date of the Order to Show Cause to modify or terminate support; or (2) the employment termination date. If your unemployment is anticipated to be temporary, you can still obtain a temporary reduction in support, and even request that the court restore the old support order once your income returns to its previous level to avoid having to return to court. There are several factors that must be considered before you request the court to reduce or terminate your support obligation, which is why it is important to seek the advice of counsel.