It is established law that California requires a change of circumstances before a modification of child support will be granted. But what exactly constitutes a change in circumstances? Previous cases have simply said there must be a change of circumstances and left it at that. More often however courts have used the term material change of circumstances. Other cases however have called for a substantial change before granting a modification.
The Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District recently concluded in the case of In re Margulis that a “material” change in circumstances is the same as a “substantial” change in circumstances for the purpose of modifying child support.
The court went on to articulate the significance of either a material or substantial change of circumstance as evidenced by past case law, Webster’s Dictionary and Black’s law dictionary. Because a trial court has wide latitude in determining that a change of circumstance has been successfully demonstrated, the court’s decision will be overturned only for an abuse of discretion.
So what does this all mean? Make sure that when you sign a final support order, you fully understand what is contained in the order. Furthermore, understand that what will be required to make a change in the order down the line is, in a word, substantial.
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