Los Angeles Child Support Lawyer
What is Child Support?
Child support refers to the ongoing financial assistance provided by one parent to the other for the care, upbringing, and support of their child or children. It's typically paid by the non-custodial parent (the parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child) to the custodial parent (the one who primarily cares for the child).
The purpose of child support is to ensure that children receive the financial support they need to cover basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare, and other essential expenses. It's meant to help maintain a standard of living for the child similar to what they would have had if both parents were together.
Child support is typically ordered by a court following divorce, separation, or in cases where parents were never married but share a child. The court considers the best interests of the child when determining the amount of support to be paid.
The following is an overview of the legal process:
- Initiating the Process: Child support proceedings can start in various ways, including through divorce, legal separation, paternity actions, or through the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). Parents can file for child support through the local child support agency or the court.
- Establishing Paternity: If the child's paternity is in question, paternity must first be established legally. This can be done voluntarily by signing a Declaration of Paternity or through genetic testing if there's a dispute.
- Income and Expense Declaration: Both parents are required to disclose their incomes, expenses, and other relevant financial information to the court or the child support agency. This includes income from various sources, deductions, health insurance, and childcare costs.
- Calculating Child Support: California uses an "Income Shares" model to calculate child support, considering both parents' incomes and the amount needed to support the child based on the state guidelines. Factors such as the number of children, custody arrangements, healthcare, and other expenses are also taken into account.
- Court Order or Agreement: Once the calculation is made, the court issues a child support order. This order specifies the amount to be paid, the frequency of payments, and any additional terms, such as healthcare coverage or payment of certain expenses.
- Enforcement and Modification: The non-custodial parent is responsible for making the payments as outlined in the court order. Various enforcement measures, such as wage garnishment, can be taken if payments are not made. Either parent can request a modification if there's a substantial change in circumstances, like a change in income or custody arrangement.
- DCSS Involvement: The Department of Child Support Services can help in establishing paternity, locating the non-custodial parent, establishing child support orders, enforcing orders, and collecting payments. They can be involved at any stage of the child support process.
Both parents have an obligation to provide financial support to their minor children and in situations of divorce or separation child support arrangements must be determined. Whether a child is natural, adopted, born during marriage or to a couple that decided not to marry, the child is owed a statutory duty of support.
What Factors Determine Child Support in California?
Many factors are considered when determining the amount of child support payments, including both parent’s economic circumstances, the needs of the child and how many children there are. In most situations, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent because it is assumed that by maintaining custody they already contribute considerable resources to the support of the child.
In California, when determining child support, courts consider various factors to ensure the child's financial needs are met fairly and adequately. Some of the key factors include:
- Income of Both Parents: The court considers the gross incomes of both parents, including salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, rental income, etc. This is a crucial factor in the calculation.
- Childcare Costs: Expenses related to daycare or childcare necessary for the custodial parent to work or attend school may be factored into the calculation.
- Healthcare Expenses: Health insurance premiums and extraordinary medical expenses for the child may be considered when determining child support.
- Standard of Living and Needs of the Child: The court aims to ensure that the child's standard of living remains consistent, considering factors like education, extracurricular activities, and special needs.
- Custodial Arrangements: The number of overnights the child spends with each parent can affect the child support calculation. Shared custody or visitation arrangements may impact the amount of support required.
- Other Children or Obligations: If either parent has other children or support obligations from previous relationships, the court may take these into account when calculating child support.
- Tax Considerations: Tax exemptions, deductions, and credits related to the child may also be factored into the child support determination.
Dealing with a child support dispute? Schedule your free consultation today to start discussing your options!
How is Child Support Calculated in California?
When child support is being calculated in California, the main factor that is taken into consideration is what will be in the child's best interests. There is also a formula that is utilized to determine the amount of child support that will be given, although it can be difficult to understand. While the calculations that go into figuring the amount out can be complex, understanding the input that goes into the formula is easier to understand.
The components used to determine the amount of child support include:
- The number of children
- The amount of custody each parent has
- The parents' gross income
- Certain deductions that may be allowed from gross income
When Does Child Support End?
In California, child support typically ends when the child reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever occurs first.
However, there are some exceptions and circumstances that could extend or terminate child support obligations:
- Emancipation: If a child becomes legally emancipated before reaching the age of majority (18), meaning they are legally considered an adult and independent, child support obligations may end.
- Continuation for Special Needs: In some cases, if a child has special needs or disabilities that require ongoing support, a court may order child support to continue beyond the age of majority.
- Agreement between Parents: Parents can agree to extend child support beyond the age of 18, such as to support a child through college or higher education. These agreements must often be approved by the court.
- Marriage or Joining the Military: If a child gets married or enters active duty military service before turning 18, this may affect the termination of child support.
- Parental Agreement or Court Order: If there's a court order or a mutual agreement between the parents stipulating a different termination date for child support, that date would be legally binding.
Parents should be aware of any provisions or circumstances that might extend or terminate child support beyond the standard age limit to ensure compliance with legal obligations.
What is the Minimum Child Support in LA?
The minimum child support in Los Angeles is $100 per month. This amount is based on the California Child Support Guidelines, last updated in 2021. The Guidelines consider both parents' income, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
There are a few exceptions to the minimum child support amount. For example, the court may order less child support if the non-custodial parent has a meager income. Additionally, the court may order more child support if the non-custodial parent has a high income.
If you are concerned about how many children support you are being ordered to pay, you should speak to a child support attorney.
An attorney can help you understand the Guidelines and represent you in court if necessary. The California Child Support Guidelines are a set of rules that courts use to determine how much child support one parent should pay the other. The Guidelines consider both parents' income, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The minimum child support amount is $100 per month.
However, the court may order a higher or lower amount of child support, depending on the case's specific circumstances.
For example, the court may order less child support if the non-custodial parent has a meager income. Additionally, the court may order more child support if the non-custodial parent has a high income. If you are concerned about how many children support you are being ordered to pay, you should speak to an attorney. An attorney can help you understand the Guidelines and represent you in court if necessary.
Gross income includes common sources such as earnings, rent, investments, pensions, trust income, annuities, workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, Social Security, disability insurance, and spousal support from a previous marriage. In addition to the amount of income that an individual actually receives, the court may take into consideration the amount that the person has the ability and opportunity to earn. Despite factors such as gross income, the court may determine that it is in the child's best interest for the parent to spend more time with them, rather than accepting a high-paying job.
Child support can be a complicated topic to address, and here at Claery & Hammond, we are committed to helping our clients resolve their family law matters in a manner that is as efficient as possible.
Get Child Support Legal Counsel From Claery & Hammond, LLP Today
At Claery & Hammond, LLP our family attorneys represent individuals and families in types of child support cases. Founding partner Lance Claery and attorney Eli Hammond represent both custodial parents who are seeking support and noncustodial parents who believe they are being taken advantage of by their former partners.
If you are a custodial parent seeking financial support from the other parent to cover things like education, food, shelter and medical expenditures, or are trying to get a reduction in the amount of child support you pay due to a change in employment status, a family attorney at our firm can assist you and protect your rights.
The Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP can do a great deal to help you with child support actions. We work hard to get our clients the results they need. Our firm can help you gather and file the necessary paperwork and advocate on your behalf at your child support hearing. It's important that you contact us as soon as possible to learn how we can help with your support case.