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Child Support Lawyer Orange County

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“The kids are everything to me.”  We hear it all the time from our clients, and we agree.  This sentiment expresses why you need to take great care throughout the divorce and legal separation process.  We can’t stress this enough when we say, do not try to handle custody and child support issues alone.

Our highly skilled child support lawyers in Orange County are available to answer any and all questions you might have about your case. How much child support will the court order a parent or an ex-spouse to pay? Does California law have different standards for mothers and fathers when it comes to paying child support? How can I make sure my ex use the money I pay appropriately? Our attorneys answer all of these questions and more every day.

Working with a good lawyer to resolve child support issues can make a substantial difference in your payment structure, your child’s life now, as well as in their future, or how much you receive for child support.  When you need help settling and enforcing child support orders with an ex, as many of us do, don’t hesitate to reach out to Pinkham & Associates.

What is Child Support?

Child support, unlike many other expenses, refers to ongoing monetary payments made to a co-parent over time, rather than a one-time payment.  Child support payments are meant to help pay for the expenses associated with raising shared children.  Examples include living expenses, food, transportation expenses, and medical costs.

Both parents or a family law judge may set an amount for child support, which is enforceable under California state law. If you do not pay court-ordered child support, you can face consequences like wage garnishment, additional fines and fees paid to the court, community service orders, and even imprisonment for a felony due to a backlog of unpaid child support in Orange County family courts.

California Child Support Laws

California child support laws state that both parents are financially responsible for the cost of raising their child or children to adulthood. For this reason, both parents can be ordered to pay child support, especially in cases where the child is being raised by a third party, such as a grandparent.

How Do California Courts Determine Child Support?

First of all, you should be aware that the parents of a child can set child support by agreement.  But, if the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will step in and make an order if either parent asks the court to do so.  California courts make their decisions based primarily on the relative incomes of the parties and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The Child Support Commissioner or the Family Law judge in charge of overseeing your case will make the final decision on how much a parent or parents can be ordered to pay in child support. Factors that an Orange County court will consider when determining child support include:

  • Both parents’ monthly income levels, including wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, independent contractor payments, and more
  • The amount of custodial time each parent spends with the child
  • Unemployment benefits received by either parent
  • Disability and workers’ compensation payments, including Department of Veterans Affairs payments
  • Passive income such as interest earned, dividend payments, rental income, etc.
  • Social Security payments or pension plans
  • Lottery winnings, insurance payouts, and other sources of revenue that a parent might come into
  • Other children that each parent might already be supporting
  • Health insurance premiums and the cost of those payments
  • House payments and taxes paid on real estate
  • And other lesser issues

In Orange County, both parties will have to prove all of the above information in court. You might be required to furnish W2s, pay stubs from your job, and copies of your tax returns. Hiding assets or income from the court in order to reduce child support payments is illegal and can result in penalties, including fines and jail. If you suspect your spouse is attempting to submit incorrect financial information, contact an Orange County child support lawyer immediately.

You will also be asked to submit proof of your investment in your relationship with your child. Even if your visitation agreement with your spouse gives you every weekend with your children, if you only see them twice a year, then those two visits are the only ones that will count for the Court, not the paperwork behind the agreement or even court orders. Your actual number of hours spent with your child, as illustrated by parenting logs and testimony, is one of the main factors considered when deciding your child support liability in Orange County.

What Does Child Support Cover in California?

Child support in California is designed to cover ordinary living expenses for your child. It is not meant to enhance a parent’s personal wealth or standard of living, although it may include some costs like rent, utility bills, transportation, and more.

For instance, when it comes to housing a child, you may need to live in a larger home than you would otherwise need just for yourself. Because of your child’s or children’s needs, some of your child support may go toward paying rent, as well as higher utility costs associated with their domicile. Child support in Orange County may also cover the vehicle you use to drive your children to and from school, the doctors, or extra curricular activities. Parental costs are only considered to the extent that they support a child’s needs, like housing, clothing, transportation, and food.  With this in mind, you cannot control how the other parent spends the child support that you provide.

What Does Child Support Not Cover in California?

The average Orange County child has any number of additional activities and expenses that parents might be on the hook for. However, not every cost that a child in Orange County incurs can be considered when determining child support. Child support does not generally cover “optional” or extracurricular expenses like summer camps, dance or music lessons, sports league costs, a child’s car and car insurance, school supplies, and more. Child support also does not include private school tuition, the cost of private tutoring, and college tuition, but exceptions may be made in certain circumstances. It may even exclude expenses related to a child’s special education needs.

That is not to say that these costs are not extremely important for a child’s well-being. The court will consider enforcing a separate agreement made between parents when it comes to vital expenses such as extracurricular activities, other extras and even an agreement to cover college expenses.  For this reason, it is especially important to work with a good Orange County child support attorney to ensure that you have accounted for all the expenses that are important to you and your family before you proceed with a divorce.  Child support orders may only cover the bare bones of your child’s actual needs.  Many parents have discussed and agreed upon additional payments and costs that they want to provide for their children’s well-being.  Nobody knows better what you child needs, than you.  A good child support lawyer serving Orange County can help make sure those kinds of additional financial arrangements are not taken off the table for your child when you choose to end a marriage.

Custody and Child Support

For many divorcing parents, child custody issues are the number one concern they face in the legal process. You should also know that it is almost impossible to talk about child custody without mentioning child support – the two go hand-in-hand. This is also true in court. Child custody plays a major factor in how child support payments are structured, as well as how much each parent is expected to contribute financially to their child’s upbringing.

When child custody and support are at stake, you really need professional legal counsel from an experienced child support lawyer in Orange County to ensure that your rights and the rights of your children are protected.

Do you have to pay child support if you have 50-50 custody in California?

Every family law case is different, but how much time you spend with your child is a significant factor in setting child support. Even if child custody is agreed upon as 50/50, if one parent earns more money than the other, then the larger wage earner will be ordered to pay some child support.  It might not be much, but there is likely to be some amount of child support ordered. And, even if you have 50-50 custody, if one parent does not actually exercise their visitation time, or see their child regularly, they can be ordered to make child support payments and have their custody access downgraded to a de facto visitation. Otherwise, another main factor in deciding who pays child support, and how much, but to a lesser extent, is the earning potential and income of each parent.

How to Apply for Child Support in Orange County, CA

In order to apply for child support in Orange County, you will need to enter your case into the legal system through a variety of filings. If you are married to the other parent, you can file for a divorce, separation, or Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children. If you are unmarried, you may still be able to apply for child support in Orange County, but you will first need to establish parentage by filing a parentage action.

The Department of Child Support Services can open a case for you for free, but they cannot help you negotiate additional payments, handle your divorce, decide on custody or visitation disputes, set spousal support orders, and other issues that might arise in the process.  Also, they typically take as much as a year to open a new case, so you will be waiting a very long time to collect child support.  For all of these reasons, you may need the help of an Orange County child support attorney.

Is it Possible to Modify Orange County Child Support Orders?

Rearing a child is an ongoing process, and it is subject to change. Any of the following developments can result in a modification to your child support orders in Orange County:

  • A change in either parent’s income
  • Changes in visitation or time spent with the child
  • Either parent losing their job
  • Either parent becoming disabled
  • Incarceration
  • The child’s needs have changed
  • Active military deployment for one parent

At times, other developments, like having another child, can also result in a modification of your child support. In general, child support is subject to change when there is a change of circumstances from when the previous child support order went into effect. 

Retroactive Child Support

Many factors can cause delays in a divorce. For example, maybe you and your ex can’t agree on a custody arrangement for your child, or your ex is attempting to reduce the amount that they will have to pay you in alimony. Maybe the divorce is drawing on because your ex has hired a lawyer who starts a fight on everything in an effort to boost their attorney’s fees. For whatever reason, you are waiting on child support payments, and you may be struggling to afford all of the expenses of raising your child on your own during the process. This is one instance where retroactive child support can be extremely useful.

However, you need to know that in California, we do NOT have any form of “retroactive” child support.  You can ONLY start collecting child support for the time after you file a request for child support.  If you need child support, do not delay, contact an Orange County, CA Child Support attorney, such as at Pinkham & Associates, right away.  

Enforcing Child Support Orders in Orange County

Orange County, CA is serious about enforcing child support orders. Child support is a legal obligation that a parent has to pay, similar to taxes. The Orange County court system can help custodial parents hold a delinquent parent accountable to a child support order by ensuring that their wages are withheld or tax refunds are intercepted, in addition to other consequences of child support is not paid properly.

What Happens if You Don’t Pay Child Support in Orange County?

Parents who do not pay child support in California can face any of the following consequences:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Liens put on real estate or personal property
  • Withheld federal and state tax refunds
  • Credit bureau reporting
  • Business license suspensions
  • Driver’s license suspensions
  • Denial of passport
  • Seizure of assets

If you cannot afford to pay child support, you support order can be modified with the help of a local attorney. But if you can afford to pay and choose not to, you are very likely to face penalties. You can be held in contempt of court by a judge and face significant fines, as well as the risk of serving jail time through the contempt of court process.

Benefits of Working with an Orange County Lawyer for Child Support

The Orange County child support attorneys at Pinkham & Associates are experienced negotiators who can help you come to a better agreement faster. Working with the right lawyer can help protect both your child’s interests, as well as your financial security. Determining how much money you should spend on your child’s well-being should not be left totally up to the court system. Ideally, you will want to come to an amicable agreement with your co-parent about what your child’s true, reasonable expenses are, and how much you can afford to put toward them each month.

Working with the skilled child support attorneys at Pinkham & Associates means having someone who has realistic expectations and decades of experience regarding what is considered fair and usual by the courts to advocate for you while also looking out for your own interests. We can help ensure that you do not agree to a situation that is doomed to fail, while also making sure that all of your child’s needs are fully considered.

Child Support Lawyer Orange County: FAQs

At Pinkham & Associates, we have been practicing family law in Orange County for over 25 years. During that time, we’ve seen it all and helped countless clients and families find agreements that work for them and their children. The following represent answers to frequently asked questions about Orange County child support laws and how child support attorneys can help:

How does child support work?

Child support payments are made monthly from one parent to another in order to help cover the cost of raising a shared child. They include previously shared expenses like housing, clothing for a child, food, and transportation. In some cases, both parents will be ordered to pay child support if the child is being reared by another family member like a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. 

What is the biggest factor in calculating child support?

The two largest factors to determine how child support is calculated are the relative amount of time each parent spends with the child and the relative incomes of the parties.  California child support calculators are available online, but they can only provide an estimate of what you might be ordered to pay. Perhaps the biggest factor in calculating child support is a major discrepancy between the two parents. This can be in time spent with their child, for instance, whenever one parent is largely responsible for all of the child’s needs, or in monthly income levels after a divorce.

Where is the child support court in Orange County?

The Orange County Department of Child Support Services cases are handled at the same courthouse as Orange County divorce cases, at 341 The City Drive, Orange, California, 92868.

Is child support based on the actual or potential earnings?

In general, child support is based on your real, present gross income. However, your potential earnings, as opposed to your actual income, may be considered when deciding child support in situations where a parent has both the ability and opportunity to earn a higher income, and the parent simply chooses to work below their ability to earn. Potential earnings are not likely to be considered when that parent’s job prospects have been legitimately reduced due to being fired or downsized, for example.

When is child support based on potential earnings?

If your high-earning spouse suddenly reports that they are now earning minimum wage, this might raise some red flags for you as a co-parent as well as the Orange County family court system. If your spouse has voluntarily quit working or retired early and now wants to pay less in child support because their actual earnings have decreased, the court may calculate imputed income child support. This means that a spouse’s ability to earn, instead of their actual income, will be considered and used to calculate child support.  Voluntary underemployment or unemployment are both instances when the court may refuse to lower a parent’s child support obligation, because the circumstances of their earnings are still within their control.

Can I get back child support if I never filed?

Simply put, no.  In order to receive child support payments, you must first file a request for child support with the court.  And, the court can only provide orders for support that start on the day you file for support. 

Can both parents agree to stop child support California?

Yes, both parents can agree that neither parent will pay the other child support, but this can be complicated.  Waiving child support payments is a complex area of California family law. While you might think that two adults are entitled to make whatever decisions they agree upon as parents, Orange County family courts are centered around providing for a child’s best interests. Under this area of law, both parents are obligated to provide support for their minor child. Because of this, receiving child support payments is tied to the rights of the child, and not the ex-spouse, even though the amounts are paid out to a parent.

Your best chance of negotiating child support amounts is usually through the help of an Orange County lawyer. Agreeing to stop or waive child support payments can actually backfire in your custody claim and ultimately raise suspicion in court. A judge might ask you how you plan to make up the difference, as well as why you are not following state guidelines for minimum support for your child. If you want to lay out a separate financial agreement with your spouse about your child’s expenses, doing so with the help of an Orange County child support attorney can make sure that the court has the right context for understanding your decision-making.

Can you go to jail for not paying child support?

Yes. If you are held in contempt of court in Orange County for failure to pay child support, one of the possible consequences is jail time. Additionally, if you fall behind consistently in child support, you can be subject to fines and imprisonment.

Going to jail for not paying child support is often the last resort of the courts, because a jailed parent cannot earn money to fulfill their obligations and support their child’s needs. However, it can happen, especially in cases involving extensive arrears.

Does child support increase if salary increases in California?

Yes.  Having a child is a lifelong responsibility, and so your child support order can be modified at any time before your child turns 18. Keep in mind, one-time bonuses and small cost-of-living raises are generally not enough to trigger consideration for modification.

Other factors to consider in a child support order modification include whether or not the initial order was properly ordered and determined, or if it was adequate to provide for all of a child’s needs, or whether or not there have been changes in the child’s needs.

Does getting married affect child support in California?

Generally, no. Getting married or remarried does not directly affect a parent’s child support obligations in California. A new spouse has no legal obligation to help provide for someone else’s child from a previous partner or marriage, and so their earning potential and the parent’s new marital status does not come into play.

The only effect a new spouse has on a present child support order is to determine the combined tax bracket for father’s income.  The net effect is usually to lower the child support obligation slightly if anything as the new spouse income usually boosts their combined income into a higher tax bracket, leaving less spendable income.  

Can you get child support for an adult child in Orange County, CA?

Child support payments are usually in place until a child turns 18, and has graduated from full-time high school education, or 19 years of age, whichever occurs first.  There are circumstances, though, that can entail child support payments for adult disabled children. This situation is very technical legally and will require the help of a qualified Orange County child support lawyer to ensure that your ex’s responsibility continues past the usual guidelines set by the court.

Is child support paid weekly or monthly in Orange County?

Child support payments are generally paid monthly in Orange County, but they can be paid in any manner that you and the other parent agree on. The payment schedule depends on a parent’s compensation schedule from their work.

Is child support taxable?

No.  Child support is neither considered taxable income for the receiver, not is it tax deductible for the payor by the Internal Revenue Service.  Child support is also not deductible under California and federal law.  Also, only one parent may claim a child as a dependent when filing their taxes.  That parent is the parent that has 50.1% custody time, or more.  If you have less than 50% custodial time, you cannot legally claim the child as a tax write-off unless you and the other parent agree that you can. 

Is child support considered income?

No. Child support is not considered income by federal or California state law.

Call a Child Support Attorney in Orange County Today

As you can see, child support is not just another part of divorce proceedings. It is closely tied to issues of custody, as well as earned and potential income from both spouses, and there are some tricky sides to this issue. It is considered a right of the child in California to receive financial support from their parents, and so child support payments are enforceable by law. Due to the complex nature and high stakes involved, please contact our child support lawyers in Orange County at Pinkham & Associates, for a free consultation. Please read our blog articles as well if you’re interested in additional details regarding child support issues.

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