Things often change after a divorce, whether it’s a new career, a new relationship, or a new place to live. Not all of those changes, however, are significant enough to justify tweaking a person’s spousal or child support obligations. As California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, the burden is on the person asking for the modification to show that there’s been a material change in circumstances to justify it.
Husband and Wife separated in 2009, ending their four-year marriage. Husband worked as a real estate broker during the course of the marriage, while Wife stayed home and cared for the couple’s two kids. The spouses eventually entered into a marital settlement agreement, resolving issues related to the divorce. They agreed to share joint custody of the children, and Husband pledged to pay Wife $3,500 per month in child support. The agreement stated that it was based on the assumption that Husband would be making about $260,000 per year and that Wife would have the kids about 80 percent of the time.
Husband went back to court about 10 months later, this time asking a judge to reduce his child support obligation. He explained that his income was now projected to be much less than expected. Husband said the $260,000 figure was based on his expected commission on the sale of a large promissory note. That sale fell through, according to Husband, and he wound up receiving a much smaller commission. Husband said he’d since taken a new job with an $80,000 annual salary.