Whether you need to open a child support case or you need to defend against claims that you are responsible for paying support, there is a certain process to follow. Below, our Salinas family law attorney explains the steps you must take.
The child support process in California is complicated, and one mistake could result in a very unfavorable outcome. First and foremost, you should speak with a lawyer that can advise on your case and help you navigate the process.
Either of the biological parents or the child’s legal guardian can open a child support case. It is important to note that a judge issuing a child support order is not enough to open a case with the Department of Child Support Services. You must fill out the Child Support Services application online. You can also find a local child support agency and fill out an application in person.
Both parents of the child must be located before a child support order can be issued. Although there is never a guarantee that this will happen, the more information a person has, including the person’s date of birth and Social Security number, the easier the process is.
Once a case has been opened, the parent named as being potentially responsible for paying support is served with a Summons and Complaint. This package legally notifies the person that a case has been opened against them. The individual then has 30 days to respond to the complaint. If the person does not respond within this time, the judge may issue a default judgment without considering the person’s defense.
If you do not believe you are legally responsible for paying child support, you have the right to request proof of parentage. This may be done by showing that the parents were legally married at the time of the child’s birth, or through DNA testing.
Some local agencies will offer “Family Meetings” that allow parents to meet and reach an agreement on the amount of child support to be paid. If the two parties can reach an agreement, they must each sign a document called a “Stipulated Agreement,” which is then filed with the court.
A court date will have to be set if the parents cannot reach an agreement. During this hearing, the judge will review the information of both parties, such as if one parent has health insurance, when determining the amount of support to be paid.
After an amount is set, scheduled payments will begin. The payer’s employer is instructed to withhold a certain amount of support from their paycheck. This does not indicate a failure to pay but is prescribed under federal law.
There are strict penalties for parents that refuse to pay child support. These may include a driver’s license or passport suspension, property and bank liens, and an interception of state and federal tax refunds. Under California law, unpaid court orders are also charged a ten percent interest rate. Parents can also modify the order when necessary (which sometimes includes losing a job, changing jobs, or changes in custody or visitations), but they must petition the court or obtain assistance from their local child support agency to do so.
Whether you are pursuing child support, or you need to defend against unfair claims for it, our Salinas family lawyers at Miranda, Magden & Miranda, LLP are here to help. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help.
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