State Child Support Guidelines
Most child support matters are handled at state and local levels. In California, child support laws are mandated by the California Family Code. When it comes to supporting minor children, California law dictates that both parents are equally responsible.
Parents must support their children until they are 18. However, if the child is unmarried and still a full-time high school student, parents must support them until they complete the 12th grade or turn 19. If the child has a medical condition that precludes them from being a full-time high school student, they are exempt from this requirement.
Child support orders are legally binding. If a parent fails to make their child support payments or willfully withholds child support, the other parent may bring an action against the parent in violation. According to the Family Code, the county may proceed with enforcing child support.
The Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department
When dealing with child support issues in Los Angeles, the LA Child Support Services Department (CSSD) is a great resource. They offer a wide range of services, and their focus is on helping families get the child support they need for their children to thrive.
If you need assistance getting support from your child’s parent, the CSSD can help in a variety of ways, including:
- Opening a child support case
- Locating an absentee parent
- Establishing paternity
- Enforcing a court order
- Assisting with out-of-state cases
The CSSD also offers a Parentage Opportunity Program. This program helps parents establish legal parentage by assisting in filling a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP). This service is free of charge for eligible parents and is often faster and less expensive than waiting for the courts to issue a judgment of parentage.
Do I Still Need a Lawyer if I Work with CSSD?
Yes. The child support legal process can be incredibly complicated, even when working with the CSSD. It is also important to remember that the lawyers on staff at the CSSD represent the public interest and not the parent or child. Consequently, you do not have the same client-attorney relationship you would have with your private lawyer.
While many parents represent themselves in child support matters, working with an experienced lawyer can help ensure that your case is handled correctly. Additionally, the courts are very busy, and they do not have the time to dedicate to their clients that a private attorney does. Furthermore, if for some reason you miss your hearing, the court may proceed with the hearing without you. When this happens, there is no one there to represent your best interests.
US Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement
In the United States, it is illegal for someone to withhold court-ordered child support intentionally. In some circumstances, an individual who fails to pay child support may be federally prosecuted. Federal charges for failing to pay child support should always be taken seriously. You may be charged with a felony and face fines and a significant prison sentence in some cases.
You may be charged in federal court if you:
- Withhold child support payments ordered by a court in another state
- Are in arrears for more than one year
- You owe more than $5,000 in support payments
It is also a federal crime to cross state lines or flee the country to avoid court-ordered child support payments.
Child support laws can be extremely complicated. If you are struggling with a child support issue, turn to TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP for guidance.