“Ensure that children receive an adequate level of support”
In order to ensure that children receive an adequate level of support, California has implemented a Statewide mandatory guideline system. The main factors in determining child support under the guideline formula are each parent’s respective income and the percentage of time each parent has custody of the children. There are numerous factors that can also affect the amount of support, such as tax consequences, bonuses, seasonal work, new spouse income.
Most of these factors are open to the Court’s discretion, and even though the Court is required to follow the guideline formula to determine support, the court has a huge amount of discretion in the findings that it makes that go into those calculations. It is important to seek legal advice on the factors the court considers when making child support orders to make sure that you are receiving the full amount of support you are entitled to, or, if you are the paying parent, to make sure your support order is fair and that you are not overpaying.
A number of child support cases are handled by the Department of Child Support Servives (“DCSS”), or Family Support Division (“FSD”). These agencies are established by the State of California to assist in the establishment and enforcement of child support orders, mandatory for cases involving financial assistance provided by the State or Federal Governments. Once a child support case has been assigned to DCSS, the Family Court loses jurisdiction over child support for as long as DCSS is involved in the enforcement of ongoing child support.
Regardless of which forum the support order is established under, it is important for both parties to periodically review the support order it ensure that the children are receiving the proper level of support based upon their parents’ respective incomes. Over time, normal annual pay raises and promotions and changes in the child sharing arrangements can significantly change the guideline amount of support that the children are entitled to. Conversely, if a parent has a significant decrease in their earnings, that parent should seek a modification as soon as possible, as any modification can only be made retroactive back to the date the request to modify was made. It is common for parents to reach an informal agreement between themselves to modify the support, only to find that this agreement is disputed years later, which can result in extremely large child support arrears.
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