If you disagree with a child maintenance award, you have a couple of options available to you which may be more appropriate and have more chance of success than an appeal. If the judgment has only just been handed down, and you believe you have strong evidence that it is not the correct decision, you can file a motion for the judge to reconsider the case. On the other hand, if time has passed, and you initially accepted the award but find yourself in changed financial circumstances and are unable to pay, then you will need to file an application to have the child support amount modified to suit your changed payment capacity.

A request for modification is your primary alternative to lodging an appeal. It is therefore very important to understand the difference between appeals and modifications.

The difference between an appeal and a modification

Appeals and modifications are drastically different courses of action, applicable to very different situations. An appeal must be filed a minimum of 60 days after the original judgment, and you must have already pursued all other means to contest and query the family court’s decision. When you appeal, even if you are successful, you will not be able to effect an immediate change in the child maintenance decision. All the appellate court will do is refer the case back to the family court with an order to reconsider the case and correct any legal errors that may have originally been made. Appellate courts most often uphold the family court’s judgment, unless there is clear evidence of error or misapplication of legal guidelines. 

On the other hand, a modification can be made at any point after the original judgment – even years later. By requesting a modification, you are indicating that you are no longer able to pay the amount that was originally ordered. If you are the custodial parent, you can ask for a modification if you feel that the maintenance amount is insufficient and that your ex-spouse is capable of paying more. Either way, you need to have strong evidence that this is the case before the court will grant a modification. 

Westover Law Group is a company of family law attorneys serving Southern California. Our appellate lawyers are available to help you through the process of modifying your child support judgement. Contact us to see how we can help you with your family law modification and related questions, and to discuss appeals or alternatives to appealing.