Children are the usual casualties of a divorce or separation. They end up being objects of possession of divorcing or separating couples that has to be divided. They end being tossed around from parent to parent or being used by either parent to get back at each other.
After all the chaos of the divorce or separation proceedings is over, there is the issue of child custody for couples who have produced children (whether naturally, artificially or through adoption) within the time frame of their marriage or domestic partnership.
Once the dust has settled in the custody battle, the next issue to be tackled by divorcing or separating couples is child support. Child support is the monthly monetary allowance ordered by a court to a parent or both parents for the upkeep of the child.
Child support is sometimes settled immediately when the parents of the child divorce amicably but if one the parents refuse to fork over the dough, then it is time to go to court.
The first order of action should be to visit the family law facilitator in your area and then consult a good family lawyer. The family law facilitator can help with:
- The forms that are going to be used in securing a child support order.
- Explain the policies and procedures to secure and/or change child support orders.
- Be able to compute for the child support amount (provided that you have financial information available).
- Give you an idea on how the court decides on child support cases.
How it all begins:
Both parents carry the responsibility of providing, nurturing and taking care of their children. It always takes two to tango anyway. If either of the parent refuses to take on their responsibility on child support, that is when the court has to issue out a child support order.
This process is jump-started by a parent filing the petition to establish parentage; kind of like asking “Who’s your daddy”? The child support order can be consolidated with the following cases:
- Annulment, divorce or legal separation
- Establishing paternity or parentage petition
- Restraining order (domestic violence)
- Child custody and support petition. This applicable in cases where there are minor children and the parents have already acknowledged the Declaration of Paternity or couples who are still married, in a registered domestic relationship and just wants to keep things documented.
Parents can also request the child support order in these situations from the LCSA (Local Child Support Agency) who will file the case for them:
- If the custodial parent is receiving public assistance (like for needy families). The LCSA will instantly file a petition to order child support from the noncustodial parent.
- Either of the parents can request the LCSA for child support services.
- The LCSA could initiate a child support case against either or both parents if the child is in foster care.
- Either of the parents can also request the LCSA to implement the child support order in any family law case.
A standard guideline is used for the entire state of California in estimating the amount of child support to be paid.
The judge has the final say when couples are unable to come to a compromise when it comes to the amount of child support to be given. The following guidelines are used to calculate for the amount of child support to be awarded:
- Current and potential income of the parents.
- Number of children that the couple had together.
- The allotted schedule for each of the parent to take care and spend time with their kids (time-share).
- The actual status of the parent when filing for tax.
- Other sources of support for the children (like other relationships, relatives, etc.)
- Cost of health insurance.
- Any required union fees/dues.
- Any required contributions for retirement.
- Day care costs and uninsured medical/health care expenses.
- Other factors that need to be taken into consideration; which may include:
– Cost of care for the child (like babysitting expenses, daycare)
– Medical expenses
– Travel expenses of the child when being shuffled from one parent to the other
– Education expenses.
The “net disposable income “is the main basis on the amount of child support to be awarded to the custodial parent. The only incomes not considered are:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- General Relief/Assistance
Some parents think that they can get away from their child support payments but as an advice, always try to be updated on the child support payments. Falling behind on child support payments can cause more problems because it accrues interests on top of the amount owed and mind you, the interests can be between 7 %– 10% depending on a specific date mandated by the court order. This cannot be modified by the judge, cannot be discharged in the event that you file for bankruptcy, can be taken out of your paycheck through garnishment and/or result in jail time for the parents who are found “in contempt of court” for intentionally not paying child support.
Child support can be modified; it’s a case to case basis. It may be modified due to:
- Change in the income of either of the parent.
- The time-share allotted on either parent.
Once the petition to modify the child support order has been filed in court, the judge will decide in the best interest of the child and the current situation of the parents. The child support amount may either increase or decrease (Don’t we see and hear this every day in celebrity divorce and child support cases?). Feel free to consult your family lawyer or family law facilitator for this.
Note: The full amount for child support shall be paid or owed as long as the original child support order has not been revised. The new child support amount will only be effective upon the start date of the new child support order.
Duration of Child Support
Child support typically ends when the kid is 18 or graduates from high school. There are cases when the child is already 18 but still in high school; for these cases child support ends when the child turns 19. Child support may also end if:
- The parent remarries or enters into a registered domestic partnership.
- The child files for emancipation or enlists in the military.
- Death of either the child or the parent.
Note: For disabled children, permanent child support maybe ordered by the court to both parents even if the child has become an adult. This happens when the disabled child is unable to care and support himself/herself (like children with special needs).
Health Care Support
California state and federal laws have a mandate that all child support orders include a provision for “healthcare support.” The parents are required to avail health insurance for their children as long as it is within “reasonable cost” to the parents’ disposable income.
Click on this link and compute for the estimated that you have to pay for CHILD SUPPORT.
CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES
If you do not pay your child support, your ex can contact the local child support agency for help. There are many ways in which the local child support agency can collect child support debts from you.
Wage Garnishments and Bank Levies
The most common way of collection past due child support is through levies. The local child support agency can levy your wages or bank account. Once your wages are levied, your employer must withhold a certain amount from your wages and forward it to the local child support agency who will then forward it to your ex. Likewise if your bank account is levied, then the amount of child support payments due from you will be removed from your bank account. If the bank account does not have enough money to cover the child support payments, then whatever amount is available in the account will be taken and adjusted towards the child support payments. Your tax refunds can be withheld to pay for your child support dues. The local child support agency can also levy your assets to recover your child support dues. Child support dues cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
Consequences of not paying Child Support
If child support payments have been ordered by a court of law, then by not paying child support you will be in violation of the court order. The local child support agency can report you for contempt. A contempt proceeding is a criminal proceeding. You will be held in contempt of a court order if you willfully disobey the order. So if you have the means to pay child support as ordered by the court but you do not pay, you will be held in contempt of court. If you are found guilty of contempt, you may be sent to jail.
What you can do
- If you are unable to pay child support because of some difficulty, you have two options depending on whether you are paying child support as part of an agreement with your ex or whether you are paying child support as ordered by the court.
- If it is part of an agreement, you can negotiate with your ex to modify the agreement.
- If it is part of a court order, then you can apply in court to modify the order. The court will modify the order if there is a significant change in the circumstances of either spouse.
- If you are unable to pay child support because of certain financial difficulties, you should petition the court to modify the child support order or negotiate with your spouse for modification of the child support agreement rather than not paying child support.
- If you have child support debts, you can apply for a compromise of arrears. This will allow you to pay less than the total dues if your child received public assistance during the time you did make the child support payments.