Child Support Attorney in Orange County, CA, Fighting For Your Rights
In California, as in most states, both parents owe a legal obligation to support their minor children. Once paternity is established either in a Dissolution of Marriage case, a Paternity Case, or in action brought by the Department of Child Support Services, the payment of child support must be established. Many people believe such decisions are straightforward—such as instances where a non-custodial parent has to pay the parent with physical custody. In reality, child support obligations will vary depending on each parent’s income and other respective circumstances. This is why having a child support lawyer in Orange County, CA, on your side is ideal.
Due to the complexities of California’s child support guidelines, understanding who owes what in a child support case can be confusing. An experienced attorney can help you better understand these issues. Attorney Patrick O’Kennedy has handled thousands of family law cases over the past two decades. This means he can help you predict a likely court order, how much child support you or your spouse may owe, and your possible avenues for changing such an order. And since the Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy offers a consultation, there’s no reason you can’t get legal counsel on how to move forward.
Who Has to Make Child Support Payments?
California law assumes that a parent spends money on their child constantly when the child lives primarily with them. Even in situations of shared physical custody—where a child lives with both parents at different times—the individual who has their child more often is known as the primary custodial parent. This is typically the person who receives child support payments. The assumption that this parent already contributes significant support to a child is why they receive financial support payments, but this assumption can be challenged in courts. It’s possible for the paying spouse to argue that their special circumstances warrant special consideration.
In some instances, California courts will issue child support orders that require both parents to make payments. Regardless of how the court orders, these payments typically last until a child turns 18. This timeline can be extended until the child is 19 if they’re still in high school. There are also instances where child support laws end necessary payments before the age of 18 is reached. Such instances include situations where the child joins the military, gets married, enters a domestic partnership, becomes emancipated, or otherwise begins to take care of themselves. The rules on who has to make child support payments—and when—show just how complex California family law can be.
This is why you should consider reaching out to an attorney when child care costs become an issue.
How Do You Calculate California Child Support Payments?
If both parents agree on a payment amount, calculating child support typically becomes unnecessary. Any amount of support is acceptable provided the children’s needs are taken care of and neither parent is receiving state aid. California has established statewide uniform guidelines for appropriate levels of child support. In reality, these “guidelines” are algebraic formulas that the court typically follows when determining the amount of child support. If the parents cannot agree on child support payments, the court will apply the formula.
The formula takes into account several factors that include:
- The incomes of both parents
- The number of children to be supported
- The amount of custodial time each parent has with each child
- Any income deductions from a parent’s income that they have no choice in (e.g., taxes, mandatory union dues).
- Healthcare costs/expenses for the children. Both parents are required to provide health care insurance to the extent that it is available at little or no cost through their employer. Uninsured costs will be shared equally by both parents.
- Child care expenses will also be shared equally by both parents to permit the custodial parent to become or remain employed.
There are other various factors taken into account when calculating child support as well. All these considerations affect the numbers that go into the California child support formula. This formula is CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN))—where CS is child support payment, K is combined income between the parents, HN is the net monthly disposable income of the higher-earning parent, H% is the percentage of time the higher-earning parent will have primary physical custody, and TN is both parents’ combined monthly disposable income. As you can see, this formula is fairly complex, but a child support attorney can help you calculate what a court ruling is likely to order.
While the calculation is meant to create a fair situation for everyone involved, it doesn’t always work out this way. This is particularly the case when multiple children are involved, and parents have separate time-sharing arrangements for each child (e.g., Child A is with one parent 80% of the time, and Child B is with the other 80% of the time). Special circumstances can also arise when parents share time equally—but one spends far more of their income on housing. Unique circumstances also frequently arise when a child has special medical needs. Calculating who has to pay child support also becomes more complicated if parents own a business, have substantial investment or inheritance income, or work in seasonal or cash paying jobs.
How do You Change a Child Support Order?
Due to the many potential special circumstances, child support lawyers often argue in court that support orders should be adjusted. Any time a situation exists where the amount paid is below the child support calculation; either parent can request a modification. It’s also possible to get a modification if you calculate child support and the current order is at or above the guidelines. For such a modification to be made in these situations, however, it must be shown that a significant change in circumstances has occurred. Such situations typically involve changes to a parent’s financial situation or the time-sharing circumstances between parents.
Such changes that warrant modifications include:
- Involuntary loss of a job
- Custodial time-share has shifted significantly since the agreement went into effect
- A parent goes to jail
- A parent and their new partner have another child
- Any situation where income has changed significantly
Any of these changes can warrant an updated child support order. It’s important to note, however, that blatant attempts to unfairly alter an order do not go unnoticed. For instance, a parent may think they can avoid child support enforcement if they quit their job. In such situations, a court may still require them to pay child support by “imputing” income. This means they’ll estimate a parent’s income derived from prior employment history, training, and education. Once the court determines what a parent should be making, they’ll use that estimate to calculate a child support order.
If you think the current order you’re facing is unfair, it’s important that you don’t try any sneaky maneuvers to alter what’s paid. Child support lawyers can help you better understand your situation and if it’s possible to get a modification—regardless of whether you’re the custodial or non-custodial parent. Child support laws are complex in California, but with an experienced law firm on your side, it’s possible to get a fair court order that accounts for everyone’s best interests.
Do I Need a Child Support Lawyer in Orange County?
Child support calculations derived from the formula used in California courts may seem complex, but the estimates are fairly straightforward. This may make it seem like determining child support payments is something the courts will do on their own—and that there’s nothing either parent can do to alter the eventual ruling. This simply isn’t the case. While the state’s formula may play a significant role in a child support order, it doesn’t always have the final say. With the resources that a child support attorney has, it’s possible to establish that other considerations should be accounted for.
The simple fact is that the average person doesn’t frequently deal with child support proceedings. This puts them at a legal disadvantage since they may not fully understand their rights. A child support order in California is meant to provide for the well-being of the child, but it’s not meant to do so to the unfair detriment of either parent. It’s the state’s job to create and enforce child support orders, but it’s up to you to help a judge understand your specific circumstances. A legal practice experienced in family law services can help you do this by determining which factors matter and helping you present them in a court of law.
Contact a Child Support Lawyer in Orange County, CA Today
The sheer number of potential issues involved in the child support guidelines dictates that care be taken when involved in such cases. For instance, it’s possible that one parent may hide their assets to avoid paying a fair amount—or in order to receive higher child support based on an inaccurate guideline calculation. At the Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy, we regularly work with forensic accountants to perform asset tracing and business valuations that help to accurately determine a parent’s income—despite what the tax returns might say. We deal with child support issues in court almost every day, and that’s what you need when facing family law issues.
In most child support cases, it pays to have qualified representation that knows the California guidelines inside and out. One simple mistake or oversight can end up costing you every month going forward. Even if all your child custody and custodial sharing issues have been ironed out, it doesn’t necessarily mean the child support amounts being paid are fair. Schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy today by calling (714) 919-1855. You’ll speak with an experienced family law professional that can help you better understand your rights.