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A child support case can seem complex and lengthy. These types of obligations last until adulthood. Consequently, courts in these and other domestic cases retain control and supervision for many years. Publicity over “deadbeats” has made enforcement of support orders and obligations a major emphasis of the judicial systems. If you find yourself in a controversy or claim over child support, you need an experienced child support attorney to represent you in the initial stages where support is set and when circumstances warrant a change.
In a child support case, the first question involves the identity of the non-custodial parent. When that parent is the mother, you need only look to the mother’s name as listed on the birth certificate.
The marital status of the mother largely determines who is the father. The law generally considers the husband of the mother to be the father of a child born during the marriage.
When a woman gives birth outside of marriage, a number of methods may establish fatherhood. If you’re the putative father, the mother or child support agency may request that you acknowledge paternity. Alternatively, you might get served with a lawsuit to have you declared to be the father of the child. In such a legal proceeding, you may have to submit to a paternity test. A local child support attorney can advise you on the cost of contesting that your a parent.
The question of child custody often accompanies or precedes determining who must pay it. In a custody proceeding, a judge considers the best interests of the children in deciding which parent gets full custody or joint custody. Full custody brings both primary physical custody and the rights to decide matters such as the child’s education, religion and participation in sports or other events. Parents with joint custody share in making the decisions, but the child lives mainly with one parent. Whichever parent does not have physical custody of the children pays the support.
Not every non-custodial parent must pay child support. You do not have an obligation if your parental rights have been terminated or you have given up your child for adoption. However, the law generally does not favor severing the maternal or paternal relationship. You should avoid voluntary termination of parental rights as a strategy to avoid child support. In most states, you cannot seek reinstatement of these rights. This means you lose not only custody but even rights to visitation permanently.
While not as prevalent, it is not unprecedented that those other than the natural parents get custody of minor children. In guardianships, people other than the natural parents provide care for the kids. These relationships do not terminate all rights or the obligations of support of moms or dads. Grandparents may also petition for support if they get custody. As a result, if you’re a guardian or grandparent with custody, you may need the help of an attorney nearest your home to pursue your rights to support.
In the process of ending a marriage, the parties may agree upon custody and child support in a separation agreement. However, a judge does not have to enforce these provisions if they do not promote the child’s best interests and, instead, may fix how much the obligated parent must pay.
In most child support cases, especially with unmarried parents, a judge decides how much the non-custodial parent must pay a month. Most states operate under guidelines based generally upon the parents’ incomes, how much is required for the maintenance of the child and the obligor’s ability to pay.
Disputes over the amount of child support often center upon how to determine the amount of income. With an experienced child support lawyer, you can obtain information on the other parent’s income and complete a statement of your own income. Documents such as W-2 forms, tax returns and pay stubs furnish much of the evidence of income. Payments you or the other party receive from welfare or other public assistance programs does not count.
Talk with a family law expert near you if you believe the opposing parent has suppressed income in order to reduce or avoid the obligation for support. For example, a parent may have quit a job to return to school or reduced work hours for more “free time.” If you can present such evidence at trial, the judge may use what the parent earned before the pay reduction as the basis for the child support payment.
Even with attorney fee awards as a possibility, the lawyer may recommend or the legal system may require you to go to mediation. Such a process affords you and the opposing party an opportunity to reach a settlement and avoid a lengthy and expensive trial.
Yes, it may be raised or lowered upon a showing that the situation of the child or the parties have changed such that the current award becomes inadequate or unnecessary or the obligation becomes unfair. Many types of changed circumstances, such as unintentional unemployment or disability, render the obligated parent not able to pay. If you want a modification because of unemployment, present details that show you lost a job through no fault of your own — such as a layoff — and that you have in good faith been looking for other jobs.
Depending on your jurisdiction or order, the amount of the support may increase or decrease automatically due to cost of living changes. Further, a rise or fall of 15 percent or more in amount of support applying current incomes of the parents creates a presumption that the child support order should undergo modification.
Speak with an experienced child support attorney in your area if you believe the child’s needs have increased or decreased. A judge might consider, for example, increased expenses because of good-faith enrollment in school extracurricular activities and higher costs of health care, clothing and food. In particular, you might get an increase in child support if your child becomes significantly sick after the original support order and needs constant treatments and care.
Understand that a substantial change of circumstances does not automatically result in a change in the amount. A proposed modification of support still must promote the best interests and welfare of the child.
Related to child support modification is the termination of the order. Generally, a parent’s obligation ends when the child reaches the age of majority and no longer is in high school. Normally, unless a separation agreement or consent order otherwise provides, a non-custodial parent has no obligation to pay for the child’s college education. The services of lawyer who specializes in family matters can help you craft a separation agreement to address the support of children pursuing higher education.
If you fail to pay child support, you face being held in contempt of court and jailed until you cure the arrears. To prevent arrears, a judge may order garnishment of wages paid by the company or other employer of the putative parent. Depending on your state, owing back support can keep you from getting a hunting or fishing license. Obtain consultation from a top child support lawyer in your area immediately if you fall behind on child support.
If you have lost your job or become disabled, you may have a defense that you’re not able to meet the obligation. In such a case, a lawyer near you can ask for a reduction of your obligation and can show the court that you fell behind due to forces beyond your control.
Generally, denial of visitation rights even granted by a judge’s order does not excuse you from your payment obligations. Instead, hire an attorney to represent you in a contempt or other proceeding to enforce your visitation rights.
For those wanting to collect back support, the contempt powers offer a great tool against the defaulting parent. Contact a top rated child support attorney or your local enforcement agency for assistance in collecting past-due support. If you’re receiving public assistance such as welfare, a social services or child support agency will handle enforcement against the putative parent.
Your search for professional advice and representation in child support law matters should include directories of lawyers that specialize or concentrate on mothers rights, fathers rights and family law.
Remember that child support questions often represent parts of a larger controversy involving custody, divorce or other family legal matters. Having experienced legal counsel who practices in these areas can help you address all the issues you face in a separation, divorce or custody battle.
Check the ratings and reviews of law firms and lawyers who take support matters. Online listings include this information to let you know if the attorney is recommended by clients and to guide you when you choose an attorney. You can visit a firm’s website for biographies of the lawyers and to learn whether you can get a free consultation on your rights and obligations.
Obtaining legal services in family law disputes can prove affordable, especially as child support and child custody laws may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing parties. Even with attorney fee awards as a possibility, Expect that you’ll pay hourly rates rather than a flat fee because child support and other domestic law controversies do not have a quick resolution but often last years, making any reasonable estimate of costs or fees a challenge.