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Child Support Law

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California child support law reflects both parents' legal obligation to support their child or children in a manner suitable to the child's circumstances; this legal obligation includes housing maintenance, education, sustenance, and health. It does not matter if the child's parents are married and it does not matter if the parent is not the biological parent of the child; adopted children and children subject to voluntary declarations of paternity are considered children within the meaning of California child support law.

The term child support usually refers to an obligation to pay money on behalf of his or her child. This money obligation is usually paid by one parent to the other parent of their joint child; however, a public entity may seek reimbursement for public assistance paid on behalf of a child, such as welfare or healthcare, that legally should have been paid by one or both parents. Child support may include past due child support called arrears.

How Much Child Support Do I Pay

The amount of California child support that a parent is ordered to pay is established using a mathematical formula that takes into account the percentage of actual time that a parent spends with a child and the respective incomes of the child's parents.
Note: Child parenting time Issues such as who is credited with parenting time when a child is in school or with a grandparent can sometimes be settled by agreement between the parents. But, if there is disagreement as to parenting time, a child custody lawyer can help explain what the family law court will likley decide if the issue is brought before the judge. 

Once the child support judge knows the parents’ respective income and time-share the judge will enter the information into a child support calculator. The amount that the child support calculator returns is known as the presumptive amount of child support, or guideline support. Thereafter, the judge will order the guideline support, if any, to be paid from the paying parent to the receiving parent (or reimbursement to a public entity).

Guideline child support can be reduced or increased depending on several factors, such as one parent having an unusually high income, a disability of the child or parent, fluctuating incomes (seasonal type work), the ability of a parent to earn more income (higher education not used), the presence of unusual types of income such as securities or trusts, etc.

Changing Child Support Orders

Most child support cases surround the investigation or discovery of the other parent's actual income (i.e. hidden income, under the table income, ability to work, hidden assets, etc.), and extra cost, if any, needed to care any disabilities associated with a child.

Note: Some parents attempt to avoid high child support payments by way of working under the table, working for tips, voluntarily reducing their hours at work, or working without an income (or low income) on behalf of a family member or friend. This types of child support fraud are dealt with harshly in family law court and lawyers familiar with child support cases have learned how to discover these hidden assets in child support court through 730 Evaluations and legal discovery methods.

Modifying child support court orders require a change in circumstance. For example a change in income of one of the parents or a change in the amount of time that a child spends with one of the parents (See Modifying Court Orders).

Note: Parents may agree on an amount of child support that is to be paid so long as the amount that is agreed upon is permitted by a family law judge after a formal hearing on the matter or where the agreement is signed by a county prosecutor in charge of child support matters. If the amount is close to the guideline child support amount the family law judge will not usually upset the parents’ agreement, but the court’s primary concern is the child’s welfare and the court will not simply sign off on a child support agreement between parents.
For example, a parent who agrees to receive no child support in exchange for the other parent's promise to not seek or enforce child custody or child visitation orders is usually not in the child’s best interest, and therefore, the family law court will not likely agree to such an agreement.

Note: Note: Generally, only a parent’s income is relevant in determining child support; the income of a stepparent is not considered in determining child support orders; however, a family law court may consider the obligated parent’s living costs in setting child support orders and if those costs are reduced because the child’s stepparent pays those costs then the paying parent can be ordered to pay an increased amount of child support. Always seek the advice of an experienced family law lawyer before filing or responding to any request for child support. Mistakes made by non lawyers in family law court are common and costly. 

Enforcing Child Support Orders

Enforcing child support orders is accomplished in several ways: Petition the court for wage garnishment (garnish wages), also called wage assignment, file a contempt of court petition, or request civil penalties for failure to pay child support. Child support lawyers are familiar with these remedies and it is highly advised to use a child support lawyers familiar with contempt cases because a defendant to contempt proceedings may rights associated with criminal defense (i.e. right to remain silent, etc.).

Note: Failure to pay child support can lead to revocation of a professional licenses, or a driver's license, property liens, tax liens, civil and criminal penalties, and more. Also, if a business is ordered to garnish wages and does not follow that order the business may suffer penalties and civil or criminal contempt of court. A business will usually comply with a wage garnishment order with the exception that some parent’s ordered to pay child support work for their parents’ business (grandparents) and the grandparents are unwilling to assist in the paying of the child support order. Family law lawyers should always be employed where a parent works for his or her parent in a child support obligation case; this is especially true in independent contractor (1099) type work.

Of course, if a parent is not capable of paying child support due to a lack of income then neither the county (DCSS), nor a child support attorney can bring a contempt proceeding because the child support attorney must prove that the failure to pay child support is willful.

If you are considering establishing, stopping, enforcing, or modifying a child support order, contact the child support and family law attorneys at Dorado & Dorado. We are experienced in child support court (DCSS) and family law court. We will patiently guide you through this emotional time. Consultations are free. Call today!
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