Child support is a common bone of contention in California for parents going through a divorce or who are unmarried but no longer together. Arriving at a fair amount, collecting child support, getting changes on an existing child support order and collecting past due child support can all cause sleepless nights. Ghazi Law Group can help you. We are family law attorneys based in Sherman Oaks who handle child support issues every day.
Both parents are required by law to support their children under California Family Code Section 3900 whether or not they have ever been married. Child support, of course, is the monthly amount the California Family Court judge orders a noncustodial parent (or in some cases both parents) to pay to support their child. Usually, these payments are made until the child is 18, though if the child is in high school full time, still living at home and cannot support themselves, payments may continue until the child is 19 years old.
Let’s go over the basics.
When You Can Seek Child Support
Whether you live in Sherman Oaks, Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City or anywhere else in Los Angeles County or the state of California, your or your child’s other parent may seek a child support order in family court if any of the following apply:
- Divorce, legal separation or annulment if you are married in a registered domestic partnership
- A Petition to Establish Parental Relationship if you are unmarried
- A domestic violence restraining order (whether you are married is irrelevant in this case)
- A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children where
- You and the other parent have signed a voluntary Declaration of Paternity, or
- You are married or in a registered domestic partnership and do not want to get legally separated or divorced
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Factors for Determining Child Support
The family court judge is subject to legal guideless when issuing a child support order in California. The court looks at several considerations including defined by law including
- Income of each parent
- Amount of time the child spends with each parent
- Number of children who require support
- Tax liabilities
- Other factors
As with everything to do with divorce, it is far better for you to reach an equitable child support agreement with the other parent, one that meets the Child Support Guidelines under California Family Code Section 4050 et seq. . If you leave it up to the Family Court judge to make the decision, neither of you may be happy with the result.
The Family Law Court May Make Adjustments for Individual Circumstances
To estimate the child support payable in your circumstances, you can check the California Guideline Calculator to get an estimate. You may also want to see the California Guideline Child Support Calculator User Guide. There is a presumption that the guideline amount is correct, however, it is far from written in stone. In some circumstances, the judge can order a different amount. This is why you need an experienced California family law attorney representing you in child support matters.
There are several situations where blindly applying the guidelines may yield an unfair result. For example, let’s imagine a couple with two children ages six and 16. The six-year-old spends 80% of their time with the mother. The teenager spends 80% of their time with their father. Though on the face of it, this may seem that time sharing is the same, because of the disparate ages of the children, one probably the teenager, may have much higher expenses.
The California Family Court judge may take this into account after performing the calculation required under California law.
Parents Can Usually Agree to a Child Custody Amount Different from the Guideline Calculation
If the family court judge approves it, parents can agree to payments of a lesser or greater amount than that determined by the guidelines. The Court will only approve reduced payments if it is convinced that it is in the best interests of the child and the child will have all they need. There are some limitations to this kind of agreement that your experienced child support attorney can explain to you.
What a Child Support Order Covers
Child support orders are not limited to the child’s basic expenses for food, shelter, and clothing. It must have a provision for health insurance and often has a provision for uninsured health costs. Childcare, education, extracurricular activities, and travel may also be addressed.
Child Support Order Enforcement
Unfortunately, many parents fall behind in child support payments, pay intermittently or resist paying at all. If you are seeking to enforce a child support order in Sherman Oaks, Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City or another part of Los Angeles County, contact an experienced California family law attorney who is in your local area.
When the court issues a child support order, it will include a start date when payments must begin. The order will include a garnishment on the payor’s wages which informs the payor’s employer to take out support payments. However, parents can agree that payments may be made by a different method such as mailing, online transfer or just handing over a check when the non-custodial parent picks up the kids. In that case, the garnishment will be stayed, but it can be activated if there is nonpayment. Be aware that if the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) is involved, they will also have to approve a stay of garnishment.
Should the noncustodial parent fall behind in child support payments, the law requires them to pay interest. This is not something the judge can adjust. Interest is as follows:
- 10% per year for child support that was due on or after January 1, 1983 or
- 7 % per year for child support that was due before January 1, 1983
A court order may allow you to pay past due child support and interest over time, but if you pay in installments, your interest will keep mounting.
Contempt of Court
The family could judge can fine a parent who does not pay child support ordered by the court if they have the ability to pay but just refuse to pay it. The judge also has the power to send the nonpaying parent to jail as a last resort.
Changing Child Support
If the judge orders child support in an amount below the California Guidelines, a parent may request a change in the child support amount at any time. However, if the support order is for the amount dictated by the California Guidelines or above, the parent must show a change in circumstances. A change in circumstances could mean a lot of things, but here are some of the most common reasons that may justify a change in child support:
- Income of one or both parents has changed
- A parent lost their job
- A parent has been incarcerated
- A parent had another child with a different partner
- The amount of time the child is spending with each parent has changed significantly
- Costs of caring for the child has changed due to any number of factors such as child care, health care or education
- There has been some other change in a factor used to calculate child support under California law
Beware: Parents may not just agree to a change in child support between themselves and expect to be able to enforce it. They must seek a new court order. Otherwise, if the payor has been paying less than the original amount, they can be held accountable.
Call Us for Your Free Consultation to Discuss Child Support
If you want to collect child support, change a current child support order or defend yourself against child support claims you believe are unjust, call Ghazi Law Group for a free consultation at (818) 839-6644 or email us at email@example.com If you are looking for a lawyer who serves people from Sherman Oaks, Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City and other areas of Los Angeles County, don’t put it off. Call us now for your initial free consultation and put your mind at ease.