Modifying Down Child and Spousal Support in a Recession


The economic crisis has affected almost every aspect of our community from depressed real estate prices, lower 401k values, and employment. Many have lost their jobs as employers try to cut cost. Those that are fortunate to keep their jobs usually have bonuses and overtime reduced. The bottom line is there is less money to go around.

To top all this off, many of us have existing child and spousal support obligations that were issued when the economy was growing and when you were generating more income. If your income has gone down substantially from the time that the child or spousal support determination, you may be able to file a modification of your support obligation. Losing a job or having less income constitutes a material change of circumstances that would allow the court to modify down your support obligations.

Child support in California is based on guideline formula. One of the factors that is considered in the guideline formula is your gross income. Usually the court would look at several months or even an average of the last 12 months income. If your average income has decreased, you may be able to modify your child support to a lower amount. Bear in mind that there are other factors that come in the equation such as the amount of actual timeshare you spend with your child and the income of the other parent. If the other parent’s income has gone down, this may adversely affect your child support obligation.

Spousal support may also be modified unless you stipulated in a divorce judgment that it is non modifiable. However, spousal support are usually calculated differently than guideline. The court will look at other factors in deciding whether to modify this. Those factors are listed in family code section 4320.

If you are unemployed, the other party may be expected to try to impute income on you. However in light of the recent cases in California, they would have to prove that you had the ability and the opportunity to obtain employment.

If your income has gone down as a result of the economic crisis and would like to modify down your support obligation, you should seek experienced counsel for assistance.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail; visit at

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