Do I Need a Lawyer For My Child Support Case?

By October 17, 2019Child Support
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Under California Family Code section 3900, both parents have a duty to support their minor children until at least the age of 18. There are times the requirement is extended, such as when a child is disabled. A support obligation may also continue until the age of 19 if the child is still in high school and/or unmarried. The code dictates that minor children must be supported “in the manner suitable to the child’s circumstances.”

How to Get a Child Support Order

Whether you are the parent seeking support or the one being asked to pay it, if you’re about to start on a child support case you have several options for handling it. You can contact a local child support agency, hire a family law attorney, or use the services of a family court law facilitator. 

California Code Section 4053 sets out a mandatory formula the court must take into account regarding child support.

  • Both parents have a mutual obligation to support their child.
  • The obligation is based on each parent’s income, time with the child, and ability to pay.
  • Child support may also improve a custodial parent’s standard of living if it improves the child’s standard. This also reduces the disparity between each parent’s standard.
  • There is a presumption that the parent who has the majority parenting time already contributes significant resources to the child’s care.

California’s child support guidelines are meant to reduce conflict between parents and decrease the need for litigation. Above all, they are designed to protect a child’s best interests.

Whichever method you choose for obtaining an order, you will need to supply the court with certain information and documents.

How to Start the Process

Child support cases often, but not always, start during divorce proceedings. Paternity actions are also common. No matter who handles the process, it all begins with a “request for order.” An accurate income and expense declaration must also be included. 

While child support agreements must meet certain legal guidelines (and must gain the approval of child support services, if involved), the court will generally allow parents to create their own agreement if it’s in the interest of the child. 

Keep in mind that if you use Child Support Services to help you obtain a support order, it may prolong the process to obtain the final signed order.

Do You Need a Family Law Attorney?

It is certainly possible to handle a request for child support without the services of an attorney. But California family law can be complicated. An experienced family lawyer can help ensure:

  • Your child or children get the financial support they need.
  • Your financial standing is correctly represented in court.
  • You’re adequately represented for a modification or if you get behind in making court ordered payments.

One of the greatest benefits to working with a family law attorney is she or he is knowledgeable about the most recent changes to the California Family Code. For example, in 2019 there were important changes made relating to parental duty and a child’s right to be supported in light of a parent’s earning capacity. 

The California courts consider many variables when calculating a child support order. Even if both parents agree in advance on the amount of child support, the court will apply conditions like the needs of the children being adequately met. 

A child support agreement can have far-reaching implications for your child and should not be taken lightly. Many family law attorneys offer a courtesy consultation and the time invested in one can be very well worth helping you decide how to proceed.

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