Hunter Biden has wound up in the news cycle again for a child support dispute over one of his five children. He has petitioned the court to reduce his child support payments for Navy Joan Roberts after a long and often bitter paternity case in 2019.
Biden’s first three children were shared with his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and are now legal adults. His fifth child was born to him and his current wife, Melissa Cohen, in 2019. As such, he has no need to pay child support for any of these children. However, he does have obligations to support Navy because she remains a minor, and he is not married to her mother.
In 2018, Navy was born to Lunden Roberts, a former Biden staffer with whom he had a brief affair. Biden refused to acknowledge Roberts’ claim that Navy was his daughter until she filed a paternity suit in 2019 that included a mandatory DNA test. During the case, Biden argued that he was unemployed and had no monthly income; however, when ordered to produce financial records, he did not. Instead, the initial paternity, custody, and support case was settled in 2020 for an undisclosed sum. Roberts appears to retain full custody of Navy, as Biden allegedly has no contact with the child.
However, a lack of custody does not exempt parents from paying child support. In September 2022, Biden petitioned to reopen the case and reduce his monthly payment obligation. He argued that he had experienced “a substantial material change in [his] financial circumstances, including but not limited to his income.”
Roberts has not agreed to the change in support. This is understandable, considering Biden has begun selling paintings for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Instead, she has pushed for a public bench trial. Unless the coparents come to an agreement, the matter will be decided in an open courtroom in May.
While most child support cases are not as dramatic as the Biden-Roberts dispute, it illustrates the structure of post-judgment support modifications well. If your finances have genuinely changed after an order is issued, you may have grounds to request that your payments are reduced.
When Are Post-Judgment Modifications Permitted?
A post-judgment modification is a change made by a family court judge to a pre-existing order or decree. These modifications are common for custody, child support, and spousal support orders. Most of these orders last for years, but they cannot account for future significant and unexpected changes to the parties’ incomes. As such, recipients or paying parties often need to request changes to orders to meet their current financial needs.
Of course, family court orders should not be taken lightly. You cannot simply request to have the ordered payment lowered without a good reason. In California, the party petitioning for a post-judgment modification must demonstrate that there has been a significant, unforeseen, and ongoing change in circumstances.
For support orders, that change is usually financial. It may include losing a job or other source of income, a new disability that prevents someone from finding work, or a significant increase in pay for either party. For example, a custodial mother like Roberts could petition for a post-judgment to increase the support she receives if she lost her job or Biden had increased his income. Meanwhile, Biden has petitioned to reduce payments because his income has been reduced. He could have filed a similar petition if Roberts had suddenly received a significant increase in her own income.
How to Petition for a Post-Judgment Modification in California
Support order modification requests center on whether a substantial and ongoing change has made the original order no longer appropriate. As such, you must gather evidence of the change and its impact on your finances to petition for a modification.
The specific evidence depends on the change you’ve experienced. It could include:
- A termination notice from your job
- Financial reports for investments that have crashed
- Insurance claims showing rental properties have been destroyed
- Medical records proving that you’ve been disabled
- Announcements about the other party receiving raises or promotions at work
You must also prove that the change was unexpected, meaning that it was not anticipated when the order was issued or done on purpose to harm the other party. For example, you cannot quit your job and remain unemployed to avoid paying according to the order. Neither can the recipient choose to stop working to increase the amount of support they receive. These purposeful actions are considered “anticipated” and cannot be used to justify a modification.
Proving a substantial change in circumstances is not the end of the case, though. In California, both parties must provide accurate and comprehensive financial disclosures of their income and assets.
These disclosures can be used to calculate child support according to the state’s strict guidelines. Judges may also use the disclosures in combination with testimony from both parties and their own discretion to determine whether it’s fair to revise alimony orders. Submitting inaccurate or incomplete disclosures can be grounds for significant legal penalties, so working with a skilled attorney is vital throughout the process.
Are You Eligible for a Post-Judgment Spousal or Child Support Modification?
While it is unclear how Biden will justify his request for a modification, these petitions succeed every day. If you have experienced a change in your financial circumstances, you may be able to have your order increased or decreased to reflect your new circumstances. That’s where Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, can help. Our Marin County alimony and child support lawyers have decades of experience representing clients in post-judgment modification. We can assist you with collecting evidence, filing your claim, and arguing for a new support order that meets your needs. Learn how by scheduling your consultation today.