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Support Modification Not to Be Applied Retroactively

Guiding You Through Difficult Times

In California, an important rule for parties to remember is that the court cannot reserve jurisdiction to retroactively modify an existing support order based upon the outcome of an expert’s later review of the parties’ incomes.  This is exactly what Irmo Gruen (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 627, stands for.

Gruen was a high-income case where Husband tried to retroactively modify a temporary support order he did not agree with.  The 4th District Court of Appeal did not agree with Mr. Gruen’s request for retroactive modification.

In dealing with any kind of support modification issue, it is important to remember that family law courts generally will not revise temporary or permanent support orders unless there has been a proven material change of circumstances.  And even if changed circumstances are shown, the trial court cannot retroactively modify an existing order for temporary support.  The filing date is what establishes the outermost limit regarding retroactivity.

According to Irmo Tavares (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 620, 615-628, The “Legislature established a bright-line rule that accrued child support vests and may not be adjusted up or down.”  If a parent feels the amount ordered is too high – or too low – he or she must seek prospective modification.  Accordingly, trial courts have no discretion to absolve an obligor of support arrearages.

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