Child Support Attorney in Long Beach, California
WHAT IS CHILD SUPPORT IN LONG BEACH, CA?
Family Code defines child support as an obligation owing to a child or to a county as reimbursement of public assistance paid on behalf of a child, as well as, past-due support and arrearages. Both parents have an obligation to support their children pursuant to the statewide uniform child support guideline, which imposes an obligation on the courts to ensure that parents, first and foremost, support their minor children according to both parents’ circumstances and station in life. Parents who are not married owe the same duty of support to their children. The duty of support is not owed to stepchildren (except in cases of parentage by estoppel,) as well as, grandchildren (with an exception for visitation-related expenses if visitation is ordered by the court.) It is against public policy to waive child support or to indirectly abridge it in any way.
HOW LONG IS CHILD SUPPORT PAYABLE IN LONG BEACH, CA?
Absent agreement between the parents or a needy incapacitated adult child, child support normally terminates when the child reaches the age of 18. If the child is still in high school at 18, the duty of support continues until the child completes 12th grade or reaches the age of 19, whichever occurs first. If a parent owes child support arrearages, the child may enforce the order even after s/he reaches the age of majority. The court has the authority to approve the parents’ agreement to extend child support payments past the age of majority. In cases of needy incapacitated children, the duty of support continues past the age of majority if the child is incapacitated from earning a living and is without sufficient means.
CAN THERE BE A STAND-ALONE CHILD SUPPORT ACTION AGAINST A PARENT THAT FAILS TO SUPPORT THE CHILD?
Yes. If a parent fails to pay support, the other parent or the child, through a guardian ad litem, may bring an enforcement action. Usually, however, child support is ordered in actions where support is at issue, such as dissolution of marriage, legal separation, nullity, parentage proceeding, DVPA (domestic violence) proceeding.
HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATED IN LONG BEACH, CA?
The court must calculate the amount of support in accordance with the statewide uniform child support guideline otherwise the order is a reversible error as a matter of law. The court must use guideline support in establishing pendente lite (temporary), permanent, or modification order. If the court deviates from the guideline, it must make either written or on-the-record findings to support the deviation.
WHAT IS THE GUIDELINE FORMULA IN LONG BEACH, CA?
The two major factors the court looks at when applying guideline support calculation are the disposable income of both parents and the percentage of time the payor has with the child.
The guideline formula is based on each parent’s net monthly disposable income. The court has wide discretion to determine the gross and net incomes. Attorney’s argument is extremely important in this area of the guideline. The calculation must be made using current income at the time of the support hearing. It is especially important when income fluctuates. The court then must base the calculation on average current income. Some courts consider income to be based on taxable items only and use a definition of income straight from the tax code. However, other courts do not agree with the “tax model” and use nontaxable items as well. Again, representation by an attorney is vital. Income that the law expressly excludes:
- income received from child support payments;
- income received from any public assistance program;
- child support received by a party for children from another relationship;
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits derived from a need-based program for which eligibility come from the person’s age, blind or disable status, and income below statutory amounts
There are also permissible deductions from income. Again, attorney representation is vital to establish proper deductions. Parents’ expenses, however, are not taken into consideration. As a matter of fact, protecting the parents’ living standards is not included in the guideline policy. The court must take into consideration tax filing status. However, if a parent is refusing to pay tax, the income tax liability is not deducted from the gross income of that parent. Other deductions include:
- employee FICA contributions;
- union dues
- retirement contributions (if required as a condition of employment)
- health insurance premiums
- certain support payments
- job-related expenses
- “hardship” as defined in Fam. C. Section 4070-4073
- and others
IF ONE OF THE PARENTS DOES NOT WORK, WILL CHILD SUPPORT INCREASE?
The court has the ability to impute income to a parent without actual income based on that parent’s earning capacity. The court may impute income where the parent:
- has the ability to work
- has an opportunity to work
- lacks the willingness to work consistent with ability and opportunity
Imputation of income is subject to the child’s best interests limitation. Income imputation is another crucial area for attorney advocacy on behalf of their client.
WHAT DOES TIMESHARE MEAN IN LONG BEACH, CA?
The time-sharing (percentage of the time) is based on the parents’ periods of responsibility for the child instead of physical custody of the child. A parent’s time-sharing can include the time the child spends in daycare. So, the noncustodial parent is not usually entitled to a time-share credit in the guideline calculation for the time the child spends in daycare. Similarly, for grade school children, the parent that has responsibility for the child while s/he is in school can, upon an evidentiary showing, have that time assign to her/him. The parent that wishes to establish imputed time-share has the burden of proof and must use admissible evidence to show that he/she has responsibility for the child while the child is in school.
CAN PARTIES AGREE TO SUPPORT THAT IS DIFFERENT FROM THE GUIDELINE SUPPORT?
Parents may agree to child support payments, which are below the guideline support. However, in those cases the amount of support can be modified without the need to show any change of circumstances. Parents, who agree, on the other hand, to support the above guideline, are subject to the change of circumstances rule if they want to downward modify the support. Parents may not agree to waive child support altogether. It is against public policy. There can be an agreement to set the child support amount at a zero in the best interest of the child or have language that the court reserves jurisdiction over the issue of child support.
ONCE CHILD SUPPORT IS ORDERED, MUST WAGE GARNISHMENT ORDER BE ISSUED IN LONG BEACH, CA?
Once the court orders child support, the court must include an earnings assignment order unless parties agree to waive it or postpone it.
CAN CHILD SUPPORT ORDER BE MODIFIED IN LONG BEACH, CA?
Yes, if there is a change of circumstances (unless the amount of child support was stipulated below guideline). Thus, if the obligor lost his/her job or income was reduced, a request for modification can be filed (and should be immediately upon the change as the court cannot retroactively modify support). If the payee increased his/her income, the payor may also file for a modification. Parties can also stipulate to modify as well.
CAN CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS BE WAIVED IN LONG BEACH, CA?
Child support arrears do not expire and are owed until paid in full. There is no statute of limitation on enforcement.
If child support arrears are owed to the government because the child received public assistance, there are programs to seek a reduction of outstanding arrears.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT IN LONG BEACH, CA?
Outstanding child support arrears expose the non-paying parent to severe legal consequences, including, but not limited to:
- Having wages intercepted by the government to satisfy the support obligation
- The possibility of a misdemeanor charge in cases of willful failure to pay child support
- Revocation of a driver’s license; AND
- An increase in payments as a penalty for not paying support in the past.
In addition to the above-listed consequences, the obligor may also be subject to the following penalties:
- Suspension of a state professional license
- Passport denial
- Credit Bureau negative report; AND
- The government can order a lien against any property owned (in whole or in part) by the obligor
CAN CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS BE SECURED BY A BOND, LIFE INSURANCE, OR ANOTHER METHOD?
A state may require the obligor to post security, bond, or some other guarantee to secure payment of the overdue support. The state must provide advance notice to the noncustodial parent regarding the delinquency of the support payment and the requirement of posting security, bond, or guarantee, and inform the noncustodial parent of his or her rights and the methods available for contesting the impending action, in full compliance with the state’s procedural due process requirements. The state must develop guidelines, which are generally available to the public to determine whether the case is appropriate for the application of this procedure.
WHAT ARE DEFENSES TO AN ACTION FOR ARREARS IN LONG BEACH, CA?
The main defense is the concealment of the child by the custodial parent. These cases are very fact-driven and must be carefully litigated. It is best to seek representation by an experienced family law attorney at Zwierzchowski & Nguyen.
WHERE CAN I OBTAIN MORE INFORMATION?