Your Los Angeles Child Support Case: The Basics

Whether a family lives in Malibu or in Long Beach, a marriage can hit rough waters and sometimes a split is the only answer. When kids are involved, things get even trickier. Indeed, sometimes family drama isn’t just found in Hollywood. The fact is that being a single parent is no walk in the park. Maybe you just want a little boost to help your bank account to make ends meet for your children. Or, on the flip side, maybe you are paying your ex more than you can reasonably afford, and she keeps asking for more! Whether you are seeking child support or are forking it over, read on to learn about Los Angeles child support cases, in general.

Support: It’s a Child’s Right

It goes without saying that both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children. Child support is defined by law as the ongoing monetary expenditures and payments necessary to cover a child’s living and medical expenses. Typically child support flows from the “non-custodial” parent to the custodial parent, though in a joint custody situation it can also flow from the parent with more income or assets. In California, the amount owed is set by very specific guidelines that take into account the amount of time the child spends with each parent, as well as the amount of income and assets of each parent.

How Do I Ask for Child Support?

There are several methods you can use to request child support in Los Angeles. The easiest way is to sign up online, though you can also download and fill out an application, or call (866) 901-3212 to have an application sent to you. To sign up, you’ll need information on where the child will be living, where the non-custodial parent can be located, and both of your financial situations. You’ll then be contacted by the Los Angeles Child Support Services Department who can walk you through the rest of the process.

Of course, you can also file your child support application with any of Los Angeles’ many courthouses.

Alternatively, you could try contacting a local family law attorney who can take up the work on your behalf. Family law attorneys often work on an hourly basis, which means that simple cases can be relatively affordable, while complex or heavily contested cases may add up significantly.

Settling a Case Out Of Court

Los Angeles courts are packed bumper to bumper, not unlike I-5 on a holiday weekend, so they strongly encourage parties to settle their cases without resorting to a costly trial. In legalese this is called a “stipulation,” which just means an out of court agreement. It is critical that a stipulation be in writing, and be signed by both parties. Once this happens, it can be brought to court and, if approved, become a court order.

How Much Child Support Am I Entitled To?

Child support is determined using specific guidelines established by California law. The amount is based on each parent’s monthly income and the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent. The court will consider income from all sources, including wages, interest or dividends, rental properties, social security and even disability.

Fortunately, if you have access to all the financial information, getting a general idea of the child support you may be due is a fairly simple task. The California court system has provided this handy child support calculator that will walk you through the process.

Alternatively, you may wish to speak with the Los Angeles Family Law Facilitator. This office can walk you through the steps it takes to reach a settlement and obtain guideline support. And best of all, it’s completely free. Check out a list of their locations to get started today.

How Can I Modify Child Support?

It is critical to note that under no circumstances will a child support order automatically change or be rescinded. This means that losing your job is no excuse to stop paying child support. However, a child support order can be changed by a new order or a stipulation approved by the court.

Either parent may request a review of a child support case. Support orders may be changed if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in either parent’s earnings, a change in custody, or a change in the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Notably, being incarcerated is also a reason to modify your child support obligations in California. Read this short but informative pamphlet about how to modify a support order in Los Angeles.

How Can I Pay My Child Support?

The easiest way to pay child support is by registering on the website at the California State Disbursement Unit to make payments using your bank account or credit card. This may be particularly convenient because you can schedule future payments so you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment. One can also call (866) 901-3212 to make these payments over the phone.

What If My Ex Stops Paying Child Support?

If your ex stops paying the payments required by the court order, you can request the court to garnish his or her wages and pay you directly. A wage garnishment order tells the employer how much to deduct from each paycheck and where to send the payment. Most support is paid this way, and state laws require it in almost all support cases. It is the employer’s responsibility to withhold the wages if there is an earnings assignment.

For more general information, brush up basics on FindLaw’s section on child support law, or learn how to locate some free legal aid in Los Angeles. Last but not least, for information specific to your circumstances or case, you may wish to contact a local child support attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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