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Why Work With Pre-Screened Child Support Lawyers in Los Angeles?

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Find An Honest Family Lawyer in Los Angeles for Child Support Actions

California courts use child welfare as a means to ensure that a child receives the financial support they need for their most basic needs. If you're the parent paying child support or the partner with the bulk of parental time, it's essential to consider how California family courts measure child support. A Los Angeles Family Lawyer can help you through this confusing process.

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Child support payments were created to assist divorcing partners in providing equally for their children's well-being. The non-custodial parent usually pays them to the custodial parent, but they may also be used in shared custody, particularly if the parents' incomes are substantially different or the children spend most of their time with one parent.

Payments typically last until the youngest child reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school, but they can last longer if the child is deemed disabled by the courts. Non-custodial parents are usually expected to make sure that their health insurance, whether they have it, protects their children.

How Does California Child Support Begin?

Each parent is equally responsible for meeting his or her child's financial needs. However, before the court issues a service order, the court cannot enforce this requirement. When parents divorce, one of them must petition the court for an order defining parentage (paternity) and an order for child care.

Child maintenance is normally paid before the child reaches the age of eighteen (or 19 if they are still in high school full time, living at home, and cannot support themselves).

In either of these types of cases, any parent may ask the judge to make a child support order:

  • For parents who are married or in a registered domestic relationship, divorce, legal separation, or annulment are options

  • Unmarried parents may file a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship

  • A restraining order against domestic abuse (for married or single parents)

  • A Petition for Minor Children's Custody and Support (for parents who have signed a voluntary declaration of parentage or paternity or are married or registered domestic partners and do not want to get legally separated or divorced)

Child support may also be ordered as part of a local child support agency (LCSA) lawsuit. This local government agency offers services to determine parentage and establish and implement child support orders in each jurisdiction. Here's how to do it:

  1. The LCSA will immediately file a child support lawsuit against the non-custodial parent if one of the parents receives public assistance (such as TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). The custodial parent who receives public assistance is also a participant in the situation.

  2. Any parent may request child support services from the LCSA, which will initiate a child support case.

  3. The LCSA can file a child support case against one or both parents if a child is in foster care.

  4. In a family law situation, any parent may ask the LCSA to take over enforcement of a child support order (like a divorce or parentage case).

How To Calculate Child Support in California?

A parent's first and most important responsibility in California is to support his or her minor children. Each parent is required to contribute to a child's support based on his or her financial resources.

  1. California uses a statewide formula (referred to as a "guideline") to determine the amount of child support that should be charged.

  2. If the parents cannot agree on child support, the judge will use the guideline calculation to determine the sum.

The estimation of the guideline is based on the following factors:

  • How much money do the parents make or have the potential to earn

  • What other sources of income does each parent has

  • What is the total number of children these parents have

  • Time-share

  • Every parent's actual tax filing status

  • Children from other relationships are supported

  • Costs of health insurance

  • Union fees are a legal requirement

  • Contributions to a retirement plan that are required

  • Shared daycare expenses and uninsured healthcare costs

  • Special considerations

In addition, the child support order can require the parents to split the costs of:

  • Child care to encourage a parent to work or obtain work-related training or education

  • Expenses for children's health care that are reasonable

  • Traveling from one parent to the other for visitation

  • the educational requirements of children

  • Other special requirements

Calculating child care by determining "gain."

Child welfare is determined by a parent's "net disposable income." After state and federal taxes and other necessary deductions, this is the parent's income. Suppose the court decides that this income occurs regularly. In that case, the court can order support based partly on incentives, commissions, overtime, and other supplementary or non-wage income.

Certain types of income are not considered when calculating a child support commitment. The court, for example, cannot take into account income from:

  • CalWORKs (California Workforce Investment Board)

  • General Assistance/General Relief

  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

Calculating child care by determining "timeshare."

By measuring how much time each parent has primary physical responsibility for the child, the court will determine "timeshare" (how much time each parent spends with the children). In general, this means that the court can monitor the number of hours or other parts of the day spent with a child by the parent.

How to Place a Support Order?

You can get a help order in one of the following ways:

Stipulation – If the Person Paying Support (PPS) and the client agree on terms, the PPS can sign a "stipulation." The PPS agrees to the following by signing the stipulation form:

  1. He or she is the child's mom.

  2. As specified in the stipulation, he or she will pay for child care and have health insurance.

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Based on the stipulation, the court may issue an order or judgment.

  • Default Judgment – If the PPS fails to file an Answer to the S&C within 30 days and no stipulation is reached, the judicial officer can enter a default judgment. This means that, without a court hearing or input from the PPS, the judicial officer can enter a final judgment based on the terms of the Proposed Judgment.

  • Court Hearing – The case will be set for a court hearing if the PPS files a Response with the court clerk. A PPS will ask the court to assess the amount of child maintenance and request genetic testing to determine whether he is the child's biological father. If the PPS fails to attend the hearing, the court will issue an order without him.

Providing Medical Coverage

If health insurance (medical, dental, and vision) is available at an affordable rate, the judicial officer is required by California law to order parents to provide it for their children. Health insurance is considered fair as of January 1, 2011, provided the premium for the child(ren) does not exceed 5% (5%) of the obligor parent's total (before taxes) profits. The court will also issue a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN), which allows the child's employer to enroll the child in health insurance and subtract the cost of the coverage from the parent's income. Financial assistance may also take the form of a payment order for medical costs that are not covered by insurance.

If a court orders cash medical support, it must be paid in addition to basic child support. In general, the court would require that all costs not covered by insurance be divided 50-50 between the parents, 50 percent to each parent. Please contact LA County Child Support Services if you have any concerns about your particular case.

Military Parent

Under the Servicemembers, Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, an individual serving in the United States military has special rights that may affect child support. The primary goal of the SCRA is to protect military personnel when they are serving in the military.

Certain civil legal proceedings against active-duty military personnel are prohibited under the SCRA, including:

  • If a service member is actively deployed on a military mission, he or she can seek a stay of all judicial and administrative civil proceedings.

  • Before a default judgment may be entered, the court must usually assign an advocate for the service member.

  • In such conditions, the service member may seek a stay of execution (the carrying out) of a judgment, attachment, or garnishment order.

  • Prior to deployment, the service member can request that his or her child support order be reviewed and possibly modified.

  • In some circumstances, the service member can request that the interest rate on past-due support be reduced from 10% to 6%.

If a Person Paying Support (PPS) is served with a Summons, Complaint, and Proposed Judgment (S&C) while incarcerated, he or she has only 30 days to answer to the court from the day the papers are served. It is important to read the paperwork thoroughly. If a PPS believes he is not the child's father mentioned in the S&C, he will request genetic testing. If the case requires genetic testing, it will normally be completed while the PPS is incarcerated. As soon as the PPS receives the documents, he or she can contact Child Support Services by phone or in writing.

If a PPS requires assistance, most California courts provide a Family Law Facilitator (FLF) that can provide child support information and assist parties in obtaining and completing court forms. FLF programs are free and unaffiliated with us. A convicted PPS may also seek help from his or her criminal attorney or public defender.

Child Support Payments Falling Behind

You must pay interest on the balance owed and the sum you owe if you fall behind on child support payments. A judge has no power to prevent interest charges are mandated by statute.

Interest is:

  • 10 percent per year for child support that was due on or after January 1, 1983; or

  • For child support due before January 1, 1983, the rate is 7% per year.

If you owe past-due child support, your court order or salary assignment (garnishment), if applicable, will provide a sum over the monthly child support. This sum is referred to as a "liquidation amount" since it is used to pay off the debts. However, interest is always applied to your account even though you pay your arrears in installments.

Child support arrangements may have significant implications. If the court determines that someone has the financial means to pay support but refuses to do so, the individual ordered to pay support could be held "in contempt of court." Contempt of court is a serious offense that can result in prison time. When all other options have failed, this compliance mechanism is usually used.

Circumstances on both sides of the order often change — the child's financial needs may change, or the non-custodial parent's income may change, for example.

When such changes occur, either parent may request a child support adjustment. If the amendment is approved, the original child support order will be modified to reflect the changes. The procedure for seeking a child support amendment varies by state and county, so it's crucial to understand the process in Los Angeles before proceeding.

Who may make a request for a child support modification, and why should they?

Parents are the most common parties to seek a child support adjustment, but other parties may also apply for a move. A child support adjustment may be requested by a custodial parent (CP), a non-custodial parent (NCP), or a caregiver. Modifications to an order may be requested from both local and out-of-state child support providers.

After the court issued the existing order, a "substantial improvement in circumstances" is the California norm for approving a child support amendment. The following are some examples of modified circumstances given by the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department (CSSD):

  • The income of one or both parents has shifted

  • A parent has lost his or her career

  • A parent notices a shift in the size of his or her family (e.g., has another child)

  • The NCP is sentenced to probation or jail

  • One or more of the variables used to measure child support (e.g., parent's living costs, health insurance premiums, etc.) have changed

  • The child's needs have increased, resulting in (more or less) different costs for health care, schooling, child care, and other services

  • Changes in the amount of time the child spends with each parent (visitation) or the primary custody arrangement

  • The NCP has been deployed in the armed forces

  • The NCP is inactive

  • The NCP receives veteran's benefits, supplementary security income (SSI), or general relief payments (GR)

Although an alteration request is pending, the NCP must continue to pay child support by the original order. Remember that leaving a job willingly is not a legitimate excuse to request a child support change.

Modifications: Temporary vs. Permanent

Depending on the situation, child support amendments may be either temporary or permanent. A temporary adjustment can only last until the change in conditions, such as a temporary financial loss, is resolved. On the other hand, a permanent amendment would remain in place until the child no longer needs care or the parties agree to amend the order due to new circumstances. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

The following are some examples of what could warrant a temporary child support modification:

  • The child needs medical attention, such as hospitalization or surgery

  • The NCP is temporarily unable to pay due to a medical emergency

  • The NCP has a brief period of unemployment

  • A change of custody that is only temporary (e.g., the custodial parent is hospitalized and the NCP assumes custody in the interim)

  • The custodial parent experiences a temporary financial or medical burden

The following are some examples of what could warrant a permanent child support modification:

  • When a parent remarries, his or her income changes

  • A parent develops a lifelong disability

  • A parent loses their work or gets a new job that pays far less

  • The child's service requirements change over time

  • Child support laws are changing in the United States

  • The price of living rises

Is it necessary for me to appear in court?

A child support adjustment almost always necessitates court approval. A cost-of-living adjustment is the only exception. Any child support order issued by a California judge usually includes a cost of living adjustment (COLA) provision. These provisions change the amount of child support due per year based on an economic measure such as the Consumer Price Index. If this provision is included in the child support order, it removes the need for you to appear at subsequent hearings to change the payments to represent rising living costs.

A hearing on a child support amendment can also be avoided if you and the other parent agree on the move. You should easily refer the new agreement to a judge for review if the paying party agrees to it or approves it. To put it another way, you won't have to go to court, but a judge will have to approve the modifications and issue a new support order.

You'll Need the Following Information to Request a Change:

You must send the following details to the local child support agency or court for your adjustment request to be considered:

  • Parents' earnings and liabilities

  • Costs of childcare

  • Premiums for health insurance

  • If appropriate, details on disability compensation (SSI, SDI, SSA, etc.)

  • If necessary, incarceration status

  • Unemployment compensation

  • Earnings after retirement

  • Visitation and custody arrangements

Changes to a child maintenance order must be made in writing. To be justified, the proposed amendment must increase the payment by 20% or $50, whichever is less.

In Los Angeles County, there are three ways to alter a child support order:

  1. Have the order reviewed by a childcare provider (CSSD). To do so, you must have an open case with the department. When you seek a review, the agency has 180 days to request a change from the judge. You can also ask the court for a modification change if your request is rejected.

  2. Submit a formal petition to the court. If you decide to go to court on your own, you will seek assistance from the courthouse's Family Law Facilitator. The Facilitator provides free legal advice and will walk you through the modification process.

  3. Hire a Family Lawyer to accompany you to court. If you employ a Family Lawyer in Los Angeles, he or she will ask the court on your behalf for a move.

Can a judge refuse to modify a child support order?

A child support adjustment may be requested by either the custodial or non-custodial parent. They must, however, be able to demonstrate that a "shift of circumstances" has occurred. A change in circumstances may occur in any of the following situations:

For example, a parent's income may have increased or decreased significantly. Perhaps one of the parents has lost their work. A change of conditions can also occur if you are sentenced to jail. There may also be a change of circumstances if another child is from a previous relationship. Furthermore, if the child custody schedule has substantially changed, implying that one parent or the other spends significantly more or less time with the child, this may be considered a shift in circumstances. If the child's financial conditions, such as child care, medical costs, or school expenses, have changed, circumstances might change. Finally, a change of circumstances may occur if one of the variables that went into deciding the initial child support order has changed.

This list is not comprehensive and cannot guarantee a specific outcome in a motion to change child support. Parents in California who want to change a current child support order should speak with a Los Angeles Family Law Attorney to see if this is possible.

It is important to consult with a California Family Law Attorney about your needs and priorities, whether you are requesting a reduction in child support or attempting to avoid adjustment. In any case, parents can never stop paying child support independently.

Is a California Family Lawyer Needed to Modify a Support Order?

You don't need a Family Lawyer to change your child support order. You can get free help from CSSD or the court's Family Law Facilitator. In certain cases, though, hiring your own legal counsel is preferable. A Family Law Attorney would know how to persuade the court by proving (or disproving) a change of circumstances. A Family Law Attorney will also assist you with all of the paperwork and financial information. In general, hiring an a Top Family Law Attorney in Los Angeles is a good idea if:

  • A Family Law Attorney represents the opposing party

  • You're well aware that the proceedings will be contentious

  • The other person is self-employed or has a cash income

  • You have reason to believe the other party is lying about his or her income or properties

Child Support Contracts

Unless one of the few legal exceptions to the law applies, California courts are obligated to order the amount of child support determined by the child support guideline. One exception is when the parties consent to a sum that is different (higher or lower) than the child support guideline if certain criteria are met.

Parents will settle on a "non-guideline" support sum in general if they:

  • They are completely aware of their child support obligations

  • Learn how much child care you can pay as a guideline

  • Do not under any duress or duress to consent to this level of child support

  • Are not eligible for government assistance

  • Have not applied for any form of government assistance

  • Agree on a level of care that will meet the children's needs

  • Consider the child support amount to be in the children's best interests

  • Have the sum of child support payments approved by a court

Parents should also agree to a guideline-based child support order. Parents can avoid going before a judge to assess child support by agreeing and signing a written agreement (a stipulation) for the guideline number. Your agreement must be sent to the court clerk for a judge's signature before it can be enforced as a court order.

Creating a child support contract

Parents can negotiate a child support sum, but only the judge can determine if it is reasonable and, if so, approve it and sign it as an order.

The family law facilitator in your county will assist all parents in negotiating and writing a child support agreement.

To draft a child support agreement, follow these steps:

1. Determine the amount of child care that should be paid as a guideline.

You must first know the California guideline child support amount before the judge can sign an agreement between the parents that sets a child support amount that is lower or higher than the guideline.

2. Agree on the price and other information.

Knowing what the guideline amount of child support will be is an important part of being completely aware of your child support rights. As a result, whether you agree to pay more or obtain less than the guideline, you are doing so knowingly and fully informed.

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You must also negotiate on who will retain or pay for the children's health care, as well as how to divide other expenses related to your child or children, such as:

  • Costs of childcare

  • Co-pays, deductibles, and other healthcare expenses not covered by insurance

  • Children's special education or other needs (tutoring, after-school sports, etc.)

  • Visitation-related travel expenses (if any)

  • Any other costs associated with your children

Where there is a significant disparity in the parents' salaries, child-related expenses are normally split 50-50 or proportionately to each parent's income, but you can consent to whatever division you think is acceptable in your case.

You must also determine how child maintenance will be paid: directly between the parents, directly to the provider, or by wage garnishment (wage assignment).

3. Make a written agreement

To create or modify child support and orders, use the stipulation. Make sure you read the form carefully because it guides you through all the problems you must discuss in your agreement.

Ensure you're using the correct case number (if you already have a case open). If you do not already have a case open, you must do so to file this agreement as part of it. You agree to keep each other aware of any income, jobs, or address changes as soon as possible under this agreement.

If you need assistance drafting your agreement, contact the family law facilitator in your district. If you wrote it yourself, get it reviewed by a family law facilitator to ensure you filled it out correctly.

4. Make a copy of the stipulation and sign it (agreement)

The stipulation must be signed by both parents (Form FL-350). When you sign, you acknowledge that you have read and appreciate it and that you are not being pressured or coerced to consent. And if you commit to a different number, make sure you attach the child support figure that indicates the guideline child support amount.

This stipulation must be signed by the local child support agency (LCSA) if they are involved in your case, either because they opened it or because one of the parents requested it. If one of you receives public assistance (such as TANF), the LCSA must agree on a child support sum.

5. Send the Stipulation to the court for signature by the judge.

Check with the court clerk and see if you need to make copies ahead of time and submit them with the original or if you should submit the original and make copies later. The processes for doing so can vary slightly from court to court, so make sure you find out what to do and when you can return to pick up your papers from the clerk of your local court.

In addition, each parent will be required to complete and submit a Child Support Case Registry Form. This form is private and will not be stored in the court's records. It is held in the State of California's confidential register. It enters the case into a national registry to aid in child support collection. If any of the details you give on this form change, you must fill out a new form and submit it to the court clerk within 10 days. If the LCSA is interested in your situation, they will electronically send the details on the form to you, so you won't have to fill out Form FL-191.

6. After the judge signs the stipulation, file it.

File the original with the court clerk after the judge has signed the stipulation (after making copies if you did not already make them). The clerk will retain the original and return your copies to you with a "Filed" stamp. Each parent will receive one copy, and the LCSA, if appropriate, will receive the third copy.

Fill out the Income Withholding for Support form as well. If you submitted one To protect the privacy of the parent who will be paying child support, just enter the last four digits of their social security number while filling out this form.

7. Deliver the Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support to the parent who is required to pay child support (the obligor)

  • Give the filed Income Withholding for Assistance to the obligor's (parent paying support) employer if you agree to get the obligor's wages garnished.

  • The Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) and the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) are two agencies that deal with child support (DCSS)

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is the state agency in charge of child support policy and administration. Every county has a local child support agency (LCSA), which offers day-to-day services to the public, forming and implementing child support orders issued by the courts. If you see "DCSS" or "Department of Child Support Services" on this website or on other forms, remember that they are the same thing.

You will get assistance from the LCSA in the following areas:

  • Create a new argument for child support

  • Determine parentage (the identity of a child's parents)

  • Locate parents who can afford child support

  • Obtain court orders for medical support

  • Ensure the child support orders are followed

  • Change the terms of child support orders

The LCSA is unable to assist you with the following:

  • Marriage

  • Divorce

  • Custody

  • Observation

  • Orders of protection

  • Establishing instructions for spousal or partner support

  • Enforcing orders for spousal or partner support that aren't covered by child support

When one of the parents receives public help for the child or the child is in foster care, the local child welfare department is still involved. Even if the custodial parent objects, the legislation states that the LCSA will determine child support compliance in situations involving public assistance.

Who is exempt from paying child support?

Child maintenance must be paid before the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes first. If a child remains unmarried and attends high school, a parent must pay for child care before the child reaches 19. Child support commitments generally end when the child reaches the age of majority or marries, whichever comes first.

In most cases, stepparents are not required to provide child care for a new spouse's natural children. However, remember that a parent's remarriage might be considered a major financial adjustment that impacts the parent's child support award or responsibility. If a parent marries a wealthy spouse who owns a house, for example, the parent's living expenses will decrease, affecting how much children support the parent can pay or receive.

Is it possible to stop paying child support?

A court order, or a mandate from a judge, is a child support order. It is not acceptable to disobey or refuse to follow a judicial order, regardless of how reasonable you believe it is. Although you cannot refuse to pay child maintenance, you might be able to negotiate a reduction in the amount of money you may pay to your child's mother or father in the future. Additionally, you might be able to negotiate with the local authority to make amends for past-due payments.

Find A Pre-Screened Child Support Lawyer in Los Angeles is a California Bar Association-Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a prescreened California Family Lawyer best fit to handle your claims. Contact us on our 24/7 lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999 or complete our inquiry submission form for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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