Saturday, January 19, 2008

Child Support Payments

What is the legal definition of child support?

Child support is your obligation to support your child financially, so the "support" there refers to money.

What factors determine the award of child support?

The awarding of child support depends a lot on your income and the percentage of time you spend with the child. There's other variables in there too. Generally, the more time you spend with your child, the less you will have to pay in child support if you're the parent making more money.

Which parent pays child support?

Well, technically, both parents pay child support. I mean, if you're raising a child and you're paying money, the other person is spending the time and paying in other ways. Both parents technically pay child support. However, if you are a higher income earner, with less custodial time, you will probably be the paying parent.

Can my ex-spouse and I make our own child support arrangements?

There is a guideline and you can't ever waive child support or try to pay less than what you have to pay, but you can make an agreement with the other party if it's not too far from the guideline.

Do I have to pay child support during a lengthy visitation?

Yes, once there is a child support order, your obligation is monthly. You would come up with some amount that you're going pay per month, and that amount's going to come from the fact that you get the kid through the summers; the formula's going to account for that. So, it doesn't matter if you get the kid; if you already agreed to pay $2,000 a month, you're going to pay $2,000 a month even when you're with the kid.

Do I have to pay support when my children reach adulthood?

The family code says you're obligated to pay child support until the child reaches 18, or completes high school and is 19.

What can I do if my ex-spouse won't pay child support?

Generally if your ex-spouse isn't paying support you would have to find a way to enforce the order. You could get a contempt, but the problem with holding people in contempt is that they get thrown in prison and they can't pay child support then either so you have to be careful in what you do. However, generally, if they do have a job and you have an order, I would have your lawyer prepare a wage-assignment order, like a garnishment, and fax it to their employer. They will garnish his wages and send it automatically to you.

Do I have to allow visitation if my ex-spouse is behind on paying child support?

Even if your ex-spouse is behind on child support payments, you still have to allow visitation. Just because somebody's not paying child support, it doesn't mean that he doesn't get to see his kid.

Do I still owe child support if my ex-spouse refuses visitation rights?

You still owe child support even if your ex-spouse refuses visitation. Even if your ex-spouse is not letting you see your children, you still are obligated to pay your support. What you would do in that situation is go to your lawyer and file something against the ex-spouse that's not letting you see the children. However, you still have to continue with your obligations to pay support.

What are the legal consequences of not paying child support?

There are a lot of things that can happen to you if you don't pay child support. One of them is the other side files for contempt. You could be in contempt with the court, which means you can end up in prison. I've heard of some people getting their drivers' licences taken away. If you're a notary public they'll just take away your licence to work. In some cases they'll just throw you in prison because not paying child support constitutes child abuse.

Can a child support award be modified?

Yes, a child support award can be modified. Let's say you lose your job; you would go in and ask the court for a modification. If you injured yourself and can't work anymore then your child support payments would be modified. It's all based on the ability to pay. You can only get $100 from a tree that has $100. So, if you found out that your ex-spouse has gone from a $100,000 to a $500,000 job and you have proof, you would go in and try to modify the child support award and get more support. You can't modify a child support award unless there's a change of circumstance that warrants the modification. Sometimes if you're the one paying support and you get remarried and have two new kids, those would constitute hardship and you could go in and modify your child support to go downward.

What do I do if I can't pay child support?

It is very rare that you wouldn't be able to pay child support because the judge wouldn't order you to pay support if you couldn't, but if for some weird reason you become disabled, and you're no longer working and you can't pay child support, I would go in and ask the judge to modify your support payments, and at the hearing explain to the judge what's happening with your life.

How do I petition the court to change my support or custody status?

Anytime you want to modify something, you need to file what's called an 'Order to Show Cause' in order to modify your support or custody status. It's kind of like a motion to the court. When I say motion, you're basically moving the court to do something; you're asking the court for relief. So, you would go and prepare this paperwork, and then you would get a hearing. You've got to file papers, the judge will read it, and set up a hearing. I would go to your lawyer to do this, or some kind of legal aid clinic.

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