When Does a Child Support Obligation Stop?

When Does a Child Support Obligation Stop?

It’s important that both parents have clear expectations about the amount and payment of child support, and that includes when the duty to pay stops. Termination of child support is governed by state law. For that reason, it’s important to know what California law says on the subject.

The general rule is that the duty to pay child support ends when a child turns 18, the age of majority in California. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.

Perhaps the most notable exception applies when a child is 18 but is still attending high school and living with one of his or her parents. When this happens, child support must be paid until either the child turns 19 or the child graduates, whichever happens earlier. Cal. Fam. Code § 3901.

Other exceptions to the general rule apply when a child gets married, enters into a valid domestic partnership, joins the military, or becomes legally emancipated. In addition, a child support obligation ends when the child dies.

As you might expect, a parent has the power to agree to continue to pay child support even after he or she is no longer legally required to do so.

In some cases, the duty to pay child support may continue well into or throughout adulthood. In California, parents “have an equal responsibility to maintain, to the extent of their ability, a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means.” In other words, if a child cannot be financially self-sufficient due to some physical or mental incapacitation, the parents must continue to support him or her if they are able to do so.

It’s important to know that California is not one of the states that requires the payment of child support throughout college. This is sometimes known as “college support.”

The best course of action as child support termination approaches is consultation with a knowledgeable California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger  will make sure you successfully navigate the laws that apply in this area. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Modification of Child Support in California

Modification of Child Support in California

Many parents are disheartened by the final child support order entered in their divorce, legal separation, or parentage case. Payers often feel that they have been ordered to pay too much, beyond their means; payees, on the other hand, frequently believe they have been shortchanged.

Most of the time, it is difficult to change the amount of support, either upward or downward. In fact, the simplest circumstance is the rare occasion on which a judge ordered less than the amount found by the guideline. In such a case, the amount can be changed without any legal showing at all.

The second simplest way to change the support amount is when the parents agree to change the amount and a judge is willing to sign an order approving the requested change. Of course, the parties rarely agree on an appropriate amount of support.

Aside from these two methods, it can be difficult to change the amount of child support. However, three methods are available: reconsideration, appeal, and modification.

Both a motion for reconsideration and an appeal have strict legal time frames within which they may be requested. Experienced California family lawyers are very familiar with the applicable time frames and mandatory procedures; if your final order is brand new or relatively so, hiring an experienced family lawyer is your best bet for changing the amount through reconsideration or appeal.

The third way the child support amount may be changed is through a motion for modification. For a modification to be granted, it must be based on a significant change in circumstances since the time the final order was entered. Again, a skilled family lawyer understands the legal standard that applies to modification requests and the type of evidence that may be used to support such a request.

Here are some examples of circumstances that may warrant a modification of a California final child support order:

  • Significant promotions or demotions;
  • Changes in jobs or loss of a job;
  • Lengthy prison or jail time;
  • Major changes in the parents’ time-share arrangement;
  • Major illness or disease of a parent or a child; and
  • Military activation or deployment.

The most important thing to remember is that unless and until a new support order is entered, the amount stays the same. In addition, it’s important that you ask for a modification right away. Most of the time, the amount will not be changed retroactively to a date before the modification request was filed.

If circumstances have changed since your child support order was entered and you want to pursue a change, consult a qualified family lawyer to discuss your best options. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings, including disagreements about child support. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.
FAQs Relating to California Child Support

FAQs Relating to California Child Support

California laws that apply to child support are anything but simple. If you’re facing a divorce and have children, you may have many questions about the mechanics of child support. In this blog, we’ll discuss five of the common questions our office receives about this important topic.

What Are the Most Important Factors in Setting Child Support?

Many considerations come into play in setting child support in California. However, the three most important factors are the parties’ income, the number of children, and the parents’ comparative parenting time with the children (often known as “time-share”).

All of the relevant factors are set out in law. However, the factors have been built into a computer program that performs the calculations for the court. Have you ever heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”? If so, you understand the importance of making sure the right numbers are provided to the court for input into the program.

What Is Included in Income for Setting Child Support in California?

One of the most complicated factors at issue in setting California child support is the parties’ net disposable income. Almost all types of income are included, such as traditional forms of pay like wages, tips, commissions, overtime, and bonuses, and other forms of earnings, such as interest, dividends, and rental income.

A few amounts are excluded from income, such as CalWORKs payments and supplemental security income (SSI).

In addition, the following items are deducted from gross income, such as these:

  • Income taxes, both federal and state;
  • Mandatory union dues;
  • Mandatory retirement deductions;
  • Contributions for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (known as “FICA” on your pay stub);
  • Health insurance and premium deductions for each parent and any children the parent is legally obligated to support;
  • Child and spousal support paid to a different spouse or child;
  • Certain job-related expenses under California Family Code § 4059(f); and
  • Court-allowed amounts for hardship suffered by a party.

Do California Courts Have to Follow the Child Support Guidelines?

Generally speaking, courts follow the child support guidelines. However, a few factors can change the amount of support.

For example, there are some mandatory and discretionary add-ons to child support. These include uninsured health care costs, certain child care costs, private school costs, extracurricular activities, and travel expenses.

Can a Parent Be Jailed for Failing to Pay Child Support?

Yes, a parent who fails to pay court-ordered child support can be held in contempt of court and even jailed. Criminal contempt of court is a very serious matter that places the payer’s liberty at risk. If found guilty of contempt of court for failing to abide by a court order of child support, both community service and jail time are possible consequences.

Does Interest Accrue When Child Support Is Not Paid on Time?

Interest accrues on any child support amounts that are not paid on time. In California, the applicable annual interest rate is 10 percent per year.

If you are facing a divorce proceeding, especially one that involves child support, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in difficult divorce proceedings. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

Different Types of Restraining Orders in California Family Law Cases

Different Types of Restraining Orders in California Family Law Cases

An important tool to help a victim of threatened or actual domestic violence is an order of protection from the court. This civil court order, called a restraining or protective order, commands the abuser to stop the abuse or suffer punishment by the court. The type of restraining order entered depends on the process used to get the restraining order.

The restraining order entered in emergency situations is called an emergency protective order. A situation is considered to be an emergency when a police officer responds to a domestic violence call or when someone has made a report of abuse to the police. In such cases, the police can request an emergency protective order under California Family Code § 6250. The court can enter an emergency protective order without first holding a hearing, but this type of protective order is only good for seven days.

If a victim needs a protective order for a longer period of time, or if the victim wants to apply for the restraining order without police involvement, he or she may apply to the court for a domestic violence restraining order. Abuse is considered to be domestic violence if the abuser is related to the victim as a spouse or former spouse; a person the victim is dating or has dated; a lover; the other parent of the victim’s child; anyone related to the victim by blood, marriage, or adoption; or a person who regularly lives in the victim’s home.

However, before entering a permanent domestic violence restraining order, the court must hold a hearing, and the abuser must have notice of the hearing. If, after a hearing, the court enters a domestic violence restraining order, that order may specify what the abuser can and cannot do to the victim or how near to the victim the abuser can be. Such an order may also include orders regarding child support, visitation, and custody orders if the victim and the abuser have children together; orders regarding possession of a shared residence or pet; orders for spousal support; or an order prohibiting the abuser from possessing a firearm. A domestic restraining order may be entered regardless of whether the court has previously issued an emergency protective order regarding the parties. A domestic violence restraining order can last up to five years.

If you are in immediate danger, the court may issue a temporary restraining order after processing the application but before a hearing.

If you or a family member has been a victim of domestic violence, seek help from a qualified family law attorney. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in helping victims of domestic violence get the protection they need. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Discovery and How Is It Used in Divorce Proceedings?

What Is Discovery and How Is It Used in Divorce Proceedings
In a divorce case, the end of your legal relationship includes the division of assets and debts and determination of issues on custody and support. Sometimes, only a spouse may have access to information on property you believe to be subject to division in the divorce, or you and your spouse may disagree on an issue regarding custody or support. To prepare an argument in support of your position, you can request information on relevant issues from your spouse or from a third party. This process of requesting and exchanging such evidence is called “discovery.”

“Discovery” is the legal term that describes a pre-trial procedure for collecting evidence and information in order to prepare a case for negotiation or trial. By obtaining and exchanging information in discovery, you can both build your own case and evaluate your spouse’s case.

There are two main types of discovery. Informal discovery is the collection of information by methods such as interviewing witnesses or asking your spouse for information or documentation without a court order. It often is less expensive and takes less time to complete than formal discovery.

Formal discovery is a legal process governed by the Code of Civil Procedure in which one party requests information from the other party, or even from a third party, and the responses are given under oath. Following are the most common types of formal discovery in a divorce:

  • interrogatories;
  • request for production of documents;
  • request for admissions; and
  • depositions.

Interrogatories are questions to be answered in writing under oath. The questions in interrogatories have a bearing on issues in your divorce. For example, you may send interrogatories asking your spouse to identify all items of property claimed to be community and separate property, to identify property owned by your spouse by held by another, or to state whether you and your spouse have agreements on any issues in the divorce. Interrogatories can be used to identify areas of agreement in a case as well as serve as a starting point for collecting information on the marital estate. Judicial Council Form FL-145 is a form of interrogatories designed and commonly used in family law cases.

Requests for production of documents are just that: a request to produce documents under oath. As with interrogatories, the documents requested to be produced should have a bearing on issues in the divorce, such as the identification or value of property owned by either spouse or financial account records. In some cases, such as where one spouse requests spousal support or maintenance, even a spouse’s medical records may be relevant and requested by the other spouse.

Requests for admissions are statements sent to the other spouse in order to ask him or her to admit or deny the truth of those statements. This discovery tool can be useful in establishing areas of agreement in the divorce. For example, where divorcing spouses agree on the identification and division of property but disagree on child custody and support, one spouse may send the other spouse a request for admissions on the property issues. Once those issues are admitted under oath in a written response by the other spouse, they do not need to litigate that issue at trial.

Finally, a deposition is an oral statement given under oath. The party who scheduled the deposition asks questions relevant to the issues in the divorce. The witness, called a deponent, responds, and the responses are recorded by a court reporter. The court reporter then creates a transcript of the question-and-answer session. A deposition is similar to trial testimony, in which one attorney examines a witness and the other attorney then cross-examines the witness. Depositions can be used to memorialize testimony as well as to gauge the demeanor of the witness while answering the questions.

You may use court forms and other resources to conduct discovery yourself, but the discovery and family law rules are complicated. If you are contemplating separation or divorce and you have children, you should consult with a knowledgeable California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger  will make sure you successfully navigate the discovery rules. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.