Southern California Child Support & Custody

Children have a right to financial support of both parents, regardless of their marital state.  The Law Collaborative can help you create, enforce, or modify support payment agreements.

Child Support Issues

 

Parents in California have a legal obligation to support their children.  Child support in California is based on a formula which uses income and custody time-share to calculate an amount called “Guideline Child Support.”  Parties can agree to different figures and schemes in order to help save taxes, and parties can agree to support which takes a college education in to account, but trial courts are usually bound by California’s child support guidelines.

When one parent earns far more than the other, the court may make an upward adjustment in child support to avoid a “prince and the pauper” situation where the child lives in luxury with one parent and in poverty with the other.  When the court takes such factors into account, or if the court determines that guideline child support is higher than can benefit the child, the court can make “non-guideline” child support orders.

California courts recognize that circumstances change, parents’ situations and income change, and children’s needs change.  That’s why courts retain permanent jurisdiction over issues involving the children in California.  This includes child custody and child support levels.

That means that the orders you get or got in your judgment are subject to adjustment if you (or the other parent) can demonstrate a change in circumstances that warrant an increase or decrease.  Such changes include but are not limited to, significant pay raises, new jobs with a different standard of compensation, a child’s developmental needs, and behavioral problems with either a parent or a child such as substance or alcohol abuse.

If you anticipate or are already involved in a dissolution matter, or even if you already have  orders or a judgment regarding child support or child custody, you might benefit from speaking with one of the child support and child custody experts at the Law Collaborative, Los Angeles.

Our office is conveniently located in Woodland Hills.  Please email us at [email protected] or call us toll free at (818) 348-6700.  If you fill out a case evaluation form our family law experts will contact you to arrange a consultation.

Custody Agreements

 

California courts recognize that what was good for your child yesterday may not be good for your child today, and may not have any resemblance to what may be good for your child tomorrow. Since nobody has a crystal ball that can predict your child’s future, California courts retain permanent jurisdiction over children’s issues such as child custody and child support.  That way changing circumstances and needs can be addressed over time.

The family law attorneys at The Law Collaborative, Los Angeles have almost 50 years of experience in dealing with the delicate and critical issues which impact children of divorce. Since our founder was a child of divorce himself, we have a unique insight and particularly well-honed skills regarding children’s issues.

Duty to Protect

All attorneys have an absolute duty to be a zealous advocate for their client, but family law lawyers are placed in a unique situation by our judicial system; Attorneys are Officers of the Court and subsequently have a duty to look out for minor children since minors can’t always look out for themselves.  So a  family law lawyer has a duty not only to the client who pays them, but also to that client’s minor children. At The Law Collaborative Los Angeles, we take that duty to heart and we put a special emphasis on what children need to thrive.

If one of our lawyers believes a client or a potential client has another agenda which does not put their child first, we will first counsel them in an effort to help understand their priorities. Most parents love their children and appreciate input which they believe will benefit their children.  Occasionally however, we encounter people who can’t put their emotional agenda aside or they simply refuse to put their child’s needs first.  In those cases we will decline representation.

By taking such a strong stand, we loose certain clients, but we believe any other stance is morally and ethically wrong.

Rather than rush off to court, most child custody issues can be resolved by a skilled mediator or neutral mediating attorney. In fact, California law requires that parents mediate with a court appointed mediator before they can see a judge. Unfortunately, the mediators provided by the court are usually overworked, and often not as experienced as you’d hope. Taking the steps necessary for a judge to order the other parent into mediation can inflame and exacerbate the situation and make agreement more difficult.

Our office is conveniently located in Woodland Hills.  Please email us at [email protected] or call us toll free at (818) 348-6700.  If you fill out a case evaluation form our family law experts will contact you to arrange a consultation.

Rather than rush off to court, most child custody issues can be resolved by a skilled mediator or neutral mediating attorney. In fact, California law requires that parents mediate with a court appointed mediator before they can see a judge. Unfortunately, the mediators provided by the court are usually overworked, and often not as experienced as you’d hope. Taking the steps necessary for a judge to order the other parent into mediation can inflame and exacerbate the situation and make agreement more difficult.

Call us at (818) 348-6700 to discuss the advantages of mediating your custody issues without the cost and risks associated with litigation.

Types of

Custody Arrangements

 

If you are a parent going through a divorce, some of the most important issues to determine are the terms of your child custody arrangement. Though the legal jargon may be confusing, it is important to understand the various types of child custody.

Joint physical custody is a shared physical custody arrangement of the children, where the intention is that the children spend significant periods of time with each parent, such as alternating weeks between mother and father. Except in cases of abuse, negligence, or addiction, joint custody arrangements are favored by the courts.

While divorce is one of the most painful events a person will experience, second only to the death of a loved one, it is many times more painful and frightening for your children. The Law Collaborative has over one hundred years of combined experience handling the many and varied intricacies of child custody matters, including “Move Away” cases when one parent plans to take the children out of state or out of the country. Our number one goal is protecting the best interests of your children. Our team of skilled attorneys will work diligently to assist you in designing a parenting plan that will ease the transition from one family to two, and we will protect you and your children’s rights should your case go to court. When appropriate, we seek the assistance of only the most sensitive and gifted mental health professionals, child custody evaluators, and parenting plan coordinators. We always put the needs of your children first.

In addition to resolving child custody disputes during divorce, we are also available to assist with modifications of existing court orders. If you are not currently enjoying at least 50/50 custody, we may be able to assist you in obtaining more custodial time. When it is in the child’s best interest, The Law Collaborative will seek to obtain sole legal custody for our clients.  Click here for Child Custody FAQ.

Sole physical custody occurs when one parent is awarded exclusive physical custody of the minor children and the other parent is granted limited or no visitation. Visitation is an agreed upon or court ordered period of time during which the non-custodial parent will have the same right of access to the minor children as does the custodial parent. Sole legal/sole physical custody arrangements usually are not granted unless there are extreme circumstances or consent, e.g. father wants nothing to do with the children and disappears.

Frequently Asked Questions

Child Custody

Can I get sole custody of my child(ren)?

It depends. If the other parent agrees, you can. However it does not relieve them of their obligation to provide child support if indicated. If the other parent doesn’t agree, consider this; Courts generally don’t like to award sole custody to one parent without substantial evidence that joint custody is not in the child’s best interest. Proof of abandonment is evidence, but it still might not be enough. You must confer with an experienced family law attorney to discuss what grounds may exist for sole custody.

Can I keep the other parent from seeing my child(ren)?

Rarely. Mental health professionals, courts, and our legislature all believe that children do better when they have a relationship with both parents. Proving to a judge that no relationship is in the child’s best interest is difficult and rare. It is more likely that the court would order supervised visitation or simply disallow overnights with the troubled parent. Talk to an experienced family law attorney about grounds for no visitation.

Whatever you do, do not make false claims of violence or molestation. First, it’s a crime. Second, Courts can reduce the custody for someone if they believe that person made false claims in an effort to influence custody orders or get more money for support.

The other parent is only spending more time with the child(ren) so they can pay less child support. What can I do?

Sometimes one parent will increase their visitation in an effort to avoid paying child support. Courts are not oblivious to this fact. At the same time, new circumstances often create a legitimate desire to spend more time with the children. A parent who was previously too busy to spend time with the kids often finds the desire and time to spend with the kids now. Divorce really can make for more attentive parents. When this phenomenon is combined with the court’s general preference that parents share equal custody, it can be difficult to convince a judge that the sudden increase in visitation is actually bad for the children and that the children would be better off spending less time so that the other parent can get more child support.

The best way to overcome an insincere increase in visitation is by keeping detailed hand-written records of the actual custody exercised by each parent. Courts are inclined to make custody orders which reflect the status quo; if the other parent is not consistently exercising all of the visitation available to them, the court will take that into consideration when making its order.

Can I move out of town with my child(ren)?

Yes, with the other parent’s written permission. Without permission, you must prove to a judge that the move is in the child’s best interest. Since courts believe that equal time with each parent is generally in the child’s best interest, the benefit of the move must outweigh the reduction in visitation time for the parent left behind. Of course, if the parent left behind is not exercising regular visitation, the standard which must be proved to the judge will be lower.

What if my spouse threatens to take our child out of the country?

Parental kidnapping is a felony and is enforceable by the State Department through injunctive process.  If you fear that parental kidnapping is a possibility, it might be a good idea to lock up your child’s passport in a safe place and notify the State Department of your concern.  Since children cannot be taken out of the country legally without their passport, your control of their passport is critical.  There may be other preventative measures that one of our family law attorneys would suggest after a consultation.

If your child is taken out of the country without your knowledge and/or consent, you must file a federal complaint immediately and hope that your spouse has taken the child to a country that is signatory to the Hague Convention.  There is reciprocity with signatory countries regarding minor children.  Unfortunately, enforcement is difficult and inconsistent.  More information is available here.

I don’t approve of the person my ex is dating, how do I keep them away from my child(ren)?

Unless the new girlfriend or boyfriend poses a real danger to the child’s safety, it can be extremely difficult to limit time spent with a new partner. Courts want children to have normal lives and part of a normal life is each parent moving on to another relationship. Unless the new partner is committing crimes, engaging in dangerous behavior with the children, or has been convicted of domestic violence or molestation, keeping them from you children can be extremely difficult. You must consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine whether or not this is a realistic goal.

My child(ren) don’t want to see the other parent, what can I do?

Because of new legislation resulting from the Elkins Report, children are allowed to testify about their custody wishes. A judge may take their testimony into account when making a decision. A judge must consider the testimony if given by a child 14 years or older. However, that does not mean a judge must agree with the child. The judge’s ultimate decision should be based on what is in the child’s best interest.

During and after divorce, children can suffer from a condition called “parental alienation.”  Sometimes this is a byproduct of the process, sometimes it is caused by one parent speaking ill of the other.  Courts recognize this phenomenon and sometimes use it to discount a child’s stated preference.

If there are true issues and concerns regarding the other parent, you must gather evidence and witness which document the concerns and incidents which you hope will ultimately sway a judge into making a decision which they are generally biased against making. This requires good and usually abundant evidence. If this is a course of action you wish to pursue, you need an experienced family law attorney to help ensure you don’t poison your case by moving ahead prematurely or with unrealistic expectations.

What does a judge consider when making custody orders?

When making custody orders courts must consider what is in each child’s best interest. This varies from family to family and from child to child and is based on testimony and evidence. The judge will make decisions about the parents based on how they look, how they act, and what the other parent says about them. The judge will consider any evidence presented regarding what is best for the child. Children are allowed to tell a judge what they like, and new laws say a judge “must consider” the opinion of children 14 years and older, but judges ultimately make their decision based on what the judge believes to be in the child’s best interest.  Call us to talk about coaching for parents involved in custody disputes.

What will the Judge order?

That’s the million dollar question which nobody can answer. Unfortunately, when you go to court, you don’t get justice. You don’t get what is “right” or “fair”. You get a decision made by a person who makes decisions for a living. They usually make their decisions after reviewing evidence, considering testimony, and reflecting upon all their legal experience and training… sometimes they’re wrong. Sometimes the appearance of truth is stronger than the truth and the children are the ones that suffer. Sometimes its just easier or safer for the judge to divide custodial time equally. That is why we always encourage parents to try and reach agreement before rushing off to put their kids in the hands of a stranger. You wouldn’t leave your kids with a stranger standing outside the courthouse, why would you trust a stranger inside the courthouse?

The only good reason to incur the risks and costs of court is because you strongly believe the other parent does not or cannot consider what is best for the child and will not agree to something in the child’s best interest.

Spousal Support

Alimony Cases

 

Spousal support (formerly known as alimony), is the money that is paid by one spouse to the other for their support and maintenance. These payments are taxable income to the person receiving it and a tax deduction for the person paying.  However, it is important to note that in order to be deductible for tax purposes, the payments must be pursuant to a written agreement or court order and otherwise meet the requirements of current tax laws. A tax expert should be consulted in this regard.

The court has discretion to award support to either spouse depending on a variety of factors, including but not limited to actual income, ability to earn income, marital standard of living, length of marriage, degree of education, health issues, and more. Awards of spousal support may also include life insurance, health benefits, and mortgage payments. 

At The Law Collaborative, Los Angeles our family law attorneys are determined to obtain the best outcome for your support case. We have over fifty years of combined experience handling complex support issues. We design unique legal strategies based on the individual factors of your case. When necessary, we consult forensic financial experts to ensure the best outcome. We are committed to making sure your needs are met.

Modifications of

Existing Court Orders

 

A modification of an existing court order, also known as a post-dissolution proceeding, is any family law matter brought in an effort to change the terms of an entered judgment. In other words, if the courts continue to retain jurisdiction over an issue pertaining to your dissolution, you may be able to seek further judicial intervention. Courts retain permanent jurisdiction over issues such as child support, visitation, and custody. Other issues may remain open to judicial intervention, while some may have their jurisdiction cut-off.

For example, if you’ve already liquidated an asset pursuant to an order, it would be difficult to revisit the issue. Once it’s done, it’s done. Other provisions of your judgment may terminate the court’s jurisdiction to revisit an issue that would otherwise remain open. Generally speaking, if the court retains jurisdiction over an issue, there must be some substantial change in circumstance to argue that previous orders ought to be changed or modified. Regardless of the issue, you should discuss it with one of our attorneys to determine whether or not it can be re-opened by the court.

If your situation has changed significantly since your divorce was finalized, either due to a loss of income or a change of location, or if you have discovered that your ex-spouse has received a significant pay-raise and you believe your support payments should be decreased (if you are the payor) or increased (if you are the payee), or if you feel the custody arrangement is not in the best interests of your children, or if assets were omitted from the Orders of Court, the California Family Code allows the court to set aside or modify the judgment.

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