Many custodial parents in California rely on child support payments to cover the considerable expenses of raising their children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has placed the cost of providing for a child until adulthood at nearly $250,000. Despite the costs, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support report found that only about half of custodial parents have a financial agreement or court order that directs the noncustodial parent to provide money.
Among the 5.7 million custodial parent families in 2013 that were owed child support agreements, only 45.6 percent of them collected the payments they were supposed to receive. The average amount of support supplied by a noncustodial parent totaled about $330 a month. If all the money legally due to custodial parents had been provided, then the monthly average would have equaled $480.
Women comprise the majority of custodial parents relying on support payments. Out of 13.4 million custodial parents in 2014, 82.5 percent of them were mothers. In 2014, 22.1 million children below age 21 lived in households that only had one of their parents residing in it. Child support represents a large portion of income for custodial parents living below the poverty line. In 2014 when they receive all payments due to them, the support accounted for 70.3 percent of their average income.
A person experiencing financial pressure because of missed child support payments could contact an attorney for help in tracking down a noncustodial parent, even one that is out of state. Communications between family court systems in different states could be handled by an attorney who could petition the appropriate court for a wage garnishment where applicable.
Many custodial arents in California would appreciate the $2,800 a month the mother of Rick Ross’ son already receives for child support. The mother of the 10-year-old boy has now filed court papers requesting that the rap artist increase his monthly support payments to $20,000.
The woman claims that Ross has substantial assets and should pay more. She alleged that the rapper had recently purchased a $6 million mansion. According to court documents filed in response to her lawsuit, Ross called her claims “frivolous and baseless.” He also accused her of undermining his relationship with his son. His response asserted that she prevented the father from seeing the boy. He added that the mother had not taken a job to help support her son.
After citing the woman’s alleged attempts to alienate the boy from his father, Ross’ filing requested that the court dismiss her request for additional child support. He also asked that the court hold her responsible for his court fees.
Going to court for a child support modification typically requires that a claimant document a change in circumstances to justify the request. This action could be done by either the payor or payee. A parent who needs to alter a child support arrangement because of a change in finances could ask an attorney who has experience in these types of family law matters to prepare the required motion and then submit it to the court. An attorney could also advise the parent about the laws and financial formulas that often guide the decisions of family court judges.
California law defines child support as the expenditures necessary to cover the living and medical expenses of a child. Under this definition, parents must support a child until age 18, or until age 19 if the child is still in high school. California courts may require ongoing child support payments from one or both parents.
In terms of living expenses, child support covers basic expenses such as shelter, clothing, food, child care and educational expenses. Shelter expenses may include utilities and mortgage or rent payments, even if other household members share the residence with the child. Other expenses such as music lessons, extracurricular activities and entertainment may also fall under the category of expenses that can be paid for with child support funds.
Child support also covers medical expenses. A court may require one parent to include a child in a health insurance plan. However, other expenses beyond insurance-covered items may also be financed through child support. For example, corrective lenses or braces may not be covered by an insurance policy, but they could be paid for with child support funds. In addition, catastrophic injuries, surgeries and chronic health conditions may incur costs that exceed the caps of health insurance policies; these expenses are likewise payable through child support, but courts may order special joint payment provisions for these so-called extraordinary medical expenses.
Family law attorneys can advise parents on the appropriateness of paying for specific items with child support funds. For instance, a family law attorney can suggest the best strategies for structuring financial support for certain one-time expenses or significant child care costs; in some cases, it may be preferable for a parent to seek a court order rather than relying on child support payments to finance large-ticket expenses.
After having received $6,000 in monthly child support payments, Feby Torres has taken legal action to pursue higher support payments from the father of her two children. Torres filed a new request for payments of $12,000 each month from Lance Stephenson, a California resident and Los Angeles Clippers player who is the children’s father. Stephenson and his attorney have criticized the request as egregious in light of Torres’ spending habits. The star athlete’s lawyer claimed that Torres’ financial records illustrate that she has been able to put some of the court-ordered child support payments in a savings account for herself.
The mother of the children claims that she needs the extra funds to move out of a Brooklyn neighborhood that she deems unsafe for her children. She cites an incident in which there were gunshots near her daughter’s bedroom. She also claims that her young children would require additional support payments for child care so she can return to school.
After dropping out of school more than one year before her new request, Torres claims she has been unable to find a job in order to provide for her children. Stephenson has expressed a willingness to pay for his children’s needs, but noted that Torres has been able to pay for child care in order to work in music videos under the current child support arrangement. He is expected to appear in court to testify in 2016.
Child support arrangements can lead to significant disputes between parents. If one parent is a celebrity or earns significantly more than the other, child support payments can become even more complicated than usual. A family law attorney can often provide assistance to a noncustodial parent in negotiating an appropriate amount that is in the child’s best interests.
California parents may want to avoid going before a judge during proceedings related to child support and other family matters. While a judge must approve any child support agreements or orders, a parental agreement may allow both parties to complete such a matter without facing a judge. However, the rules governing child support agreements are significant, and it is important that both parties understand the implications of an agreement and enter into such an agreement without being coerced.
The state uses a child support formula to compute the recommended amount due based on issues such as income and assets of the parents and the amount of parenting time assigned to each party. In some cases, parents might agree to a lesser amount than that determined by this formula, in which case the parent receiving support must be fully aware of their rights. Similarly, a paying parent might agree to provide more than the minimum required. The court is particularly concerned that the needs of the children involved will be met and that such an agreement is in their best interest.
If a parent is receiving public assistance, a child support agreement must be approved and signed by the local child support agency. Similarly, this type of approval must be obtained if the child support agency has an active case to enforce collection on one of the parties. Parents will need to prepare and sign the appropriate stipulation paperwork so that the matter can be approved by a judge. However, the parents should not need to appear before the judge if all requirements have been satisfied.
A parent who feels that they are being coerced into accepting an agreement might discuss such a matter with a lawyer. If the other party is seeking changes in support levels because of an adverse financial situation, they may be able to seek a modification from the court if necessary.
When the financial circumstances of California non-custodial parents have substantially changed, they may have difficulty making their court-ordered child support payments. In that case, they will often need to file a petition to modify child support in order to seek a reduction in the monthly amount.
In some cases, a parent has relocated to a new state since the child support order was issued. Their child and the other parent may also have done so. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act has been enacted in each of the 50 states to address such situations. Under the law, the state in which the obligor, obligee or the child reside will have exclusive jurisdiction.
In some cases, more than one state could claim jurisdiction, so the UIFSA addresses that potentiality as well. If a child continues to live in a state that ordered child support, that state will continue holding jurisdiction over the case. If the child has moved to a different state, then the last state from which a child support order issued will have jurisdiction to hear the case.
Sometimes it may be difficult to determine the correct venue in which to file a motion to modify child support. Parents may want to seek the help of a family law attorney to both identify the state with jurisdiction and to help with drafting and filing it. In the event an attorney determines that California does not have jurisdiction, they may help by referring the person to an attorney in the state that does. If they identify California as the state holding jurisdiction, they may help their clients by drafting a petition that is thoroughly supported with evidentiary documentation to show the court why such a change is needed.
Parents in California may be relieved to find out that a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that many noncustodial fathers who do not make their court-ordered child support payments still make substantial contributions to the care and support of their children in other ways. The study suggests that dads who do not pay are not always as “deadbeat” as they appear.
Census data shows that in 2011, approximately the same amount of noncustodial mothers and noncustodial fathers paid their full amount of child support payments. Unfortunately, many sociologists say that the existing child support system often leads the custodial mothers to deny the noncustodial fathers access to their children until they make the payments.
The study examined 367 low-income, noncustodial fathers in three cities and found that while just 23 percent paid child support via the system, 28 percent gave the mothers cash directly, and 46 percent contributed an average of $60 a month worth of in-kind support such as food, baby products, clothes and school expenses.
Only 66 of the fathers gave no cash to the mothers of their total 95 children, but they contributed $63 of in-kind support every month per child. In regard to being denied access to their children, the study concluded that fathers who do not see their children contribute only about 50 percent of the in-kind support than fathers who see their children a minimum of 10 hours a month contribute.
Child support is one of the primary matters that is determined when parents go through a divorce, but each parent’s or child’s living situation could change after the order has been issued. Noncustodial parents who are having trouble paying their child support obligations due to an unexpected financial downturn could talk to their family law attorneys about getting their orders modified.
One of the most important aspects of divorce is agreeing upon a plan for minor children. The plan should provide consistency and be determined based on the needs of the children. When the details are agreed upon, documented and signed by both parents and the judge, the plan will be filed with the court system to become a court order.
Elements of the parenting plan, or custody and visitation agreement, should include a schedule detailing when the children will be with each parent and specifics regarding how decisions affecting the children will be managed. Routine is a critical component of any parenting plan. Current childcare situations should be considered to avoid unnecessary change, and younger children may need more frequent visitation because their concept of time is generally different from teens’ concept of time.
Parents who are active in their children’s lives and work to agree on custody and visitation make the transitions easier on the children. The courts will put the safety and best interests of the children above all other details. If there are any abuse or addiction issues related to either parent, the plan should have elements in place specifying any limitations as well as any necessary treatments that will benefit the parent-child relationship.
Laws for custody, visitation and child support vary from state to state. Proper documentation and filing are critical to ensure the best possible outcome for the children. California provides a parenting plan outline and additional forms to help parents make the best decisions regarding their children. A family law lawyer can ensure that all necessary documents are completed in the proper manner and that no important details are overlooked.
In California, it may be possible to change a child support order if there is cause to do so. In the event that a support order was below the state guideline, there is no need to show cause prior to asking for the order to be changed. This is true even if the support order was agreed to by the parents outside of court.
It may also be possible to modify a child support order if the income of one of the parents has changed or the amount of time that a child spends with a parent has changed. Additionally, if a parent has been incarcerated or has another child in another relationship, a child support order may be subject to modification. Finally, support orders can be changed if the needs of the child have changed or any other factors used to calculate support have changed.
The parents may agree to the changes on their own or get a modification order from a judge. Regardless of how the child support order is changed, the current support order remains in effect until the new order is approved by a judge. Therefore, it is always better to get any changes put into writing, as a verbal agreement may or may not stand up in court.
Parents who are looking to adjust their child support agreement may wish to hire a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to review the current order along with any changes in circumstance since the order was made to determine if there is reason to have the order changed. If there is a good reason to modify the order, it may be possible for an attorney to provide assistance in court or during mediation sessions between the parents.
Grandparents in California might run into a situation where they feel they need to petition a court to mandate visitation with a grandchild. While California law allows grandparents to petition for this, it can only be filed if certain conditions are met.
First, the court needs to determine if the visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild. For this to happen, it must be shown that the grandparents and the grandchild had a pre-existing relationship and that a bond had formed between them. The court also needs to balance the best interest of the child in having visitations with the grandparents and the right of the child’s parents to make decisions affecting their child.
Second, under California family law, a petition for visitation with a grandchild cannot be filed if the grandchild’s parents are married unless the case meets one of five exceptions. These exceptions include a parent joining the grandparents in the petition, the parents living separately, the whereabouts of one parent being unknown for at least a month, a child being adopted by a stepparent and a child who is not living with the parents.
It is usually recommended that families attempt to resolve visitation issues outside of court, even with the help of a mediator. However, if this is not possible, grandparents have two ways under which they can file the petition. One way is to file a petition under an open case related to a child, such as in a divorce, a child custody case, a child support case or even a domestic violence case involving a restraining order. If there is no open case, the grandparents can file to open one. While there are no official state forms to ask for visitations, some of the local courts have created their own forms for this purpose.