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Here you can find information regarding Child Custody, Child Support, visitation, and more!

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Word of advice:
If you plan on filing court papers of any kind. Please think twice. Going to court, is NOT as *easy* as some people may make it out to be. Going to court means being in the "system" for the rest of your life. Yes, the rest of your life. If you're with the person that you're filing court papers against, think twice, again. Going to court fighting for your child, but yet, in love with that person that you're filing papers against- is not as easy as you may think it is.

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CHILD SUPPORT

What is child support?

Even though parents are not married and live apart, they are both legally responsible for the support of their child. The parent who the child lives with must provide such things as food, shelter, education, and medical care. The parent who the child doesn't live with must provide financial support and health insurance (if the health insurance is available through that parent's job) for the child until the child reaches the age of eighteen or, in some cases, nineteen. 

Who decides how much money the parent living apart from the child must pay?

If the parent who the child lives with is not receiving any TANF or Medi-Cal support (e.g. welfare) the parents are free to decide the amount of child support on their own. They can receive a court order stating the amount that they have agreed upon. If the parents cannot agree on the amount, they can go to court and a judge will decide based on a formula that looks at income, childcare costs, medical costs, and time spent with the child.

However, if the parent who the child is living with is receiving TANF or Medi-Cal support, the Family Support Division of the District Attorney's Office will determine the amount of child support based on the formula described above. A judge orders the final amount of child support. The parent must give the child support payments to the Family Support Division as long as that parent continues to get welfare.

The Family Support Division will also recommend the child support amount and enforce a child support order for a parent who is not receiving welfare if either parent requests their assistance. 

How does the Family Support Division decide on the amount of child support?

As described above, the Family Support Division uses a formula or guideline set by the Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Determining Child Support found in the California Family Code.  

What happens if the parent refuses to pay child support?

The Family Support Division can work to enforce child support orders. It will try to get the parent to pay voluntarily. However, if the parent still refuses to pay the child support, more drastic steps are authorized by the Family Support Act of 1988. This Act allows for such actions as taking money directly out of that parent's paycheck; taking that parent's tax refunds; taking that parent's unemployment and state disability benefits; taking any lottery money won by that parent; suspension of that parent's professional licenses; liens; writs of execution; and contempt proceedings.  

What happens of the parent moves to another state to avoid paying child support?

The parent still has to pay child support. A federal law called the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act allows California to continue enforcing child support orders issued here no matter where the parent may move. The parent seeking the child support payments can hire an attorney and try to enforce the order against the other parent in the new state or the Family Support Division can work to enforce the child support order in the new state.  

Can a child support order be changed?

Yes. If one parent paying child support experiences a significant change such as a loss or gain of employment, either parent may request that the Family Support Division increase or decrease the child support order. Parents can also ask to change the amount of the child support payment if the amount of time spent with the child changes significantly. If the Family Support Division is not involved in a child support case the parent desiring the change must ask the judge directly.

What if one parent is under 18 and the other is an adult ? will the adult parent get in trouble if the minor parent requests child  support through the District Attorney's Office?

It is against the law for an unmarried person under the age of eighteen to have sexual intercourse. The District Attorney's Office does sometimes check the ages of people in child support cases and it is possible that the adult could be in trouble.

What if the parent the child lives with doesn't want child support from the other parent?

If the parent who lives with the child is not on welfare he/she does not have to get child support from the other parent. If the parent is on welfare, the Family Support Division of the District Attorney's Office will automatically pursue child support whether or not the parent with custody wants the child support. 

What if the parent the child lives with doesn't know where the other parent is?

The Family Support Division will help find the other parent. It is important that the parent who lives with the child give the District Attorney's Office as much help as possible in finding the other parent. Refusing to give the Department of Social Services or the Family Support Division information about the other parent is a crime that can lead to jail time. 

Should a parent still get a child support order if the other parent isn't working?

The parent the child lives with can get a child support order regardless of whether the other parent is working. Once a judge signs an order, the parent the order is against starts owing money. If that parent isn't working the amount of the order may be low and the parent may not pay. However, if that parent does start working or otherwise gets money, the parent will owe the monthly child support payment amount plus all the prior amounts he/she didn't pay..  

Can a parent get a child support order against a parent who is in jail?

The parent who lives with the child will probably not be able to collect any support from the jailed parent unless that parent has money or property or is in a work release program. However, yes, a child support order can be entered against a parent who is in jail. Once the jailed parent is released child support can be collected.

Child Custody:

What is child custody?

When parents do not live together, either because they are separated, divorced, or never married, "custody" means who is responsible for the children. 

What is "physical custody"?

When a parent has "physical custody" over a child, it means that the child would spend time living with that parent on a regular basis. If the parents have "joint physical custody," the child lives at each parent's home. However, if one parent has sole physical custody, the child usually spends significantly less time at the other parent's home.  

What is "legal custody"?

If a parent has "sole legal custody" of a child, it means that he or she has the right to make decisions regarding the child's health, education, and welfare, such as what school or doctor shall be used. "Joint legal custody" means both parents share decisions regarding health, education and welfare. 

Can physical and legal custody be shared by parents?

Yes. A judge may approve joint physical or joint legal custody. The child may live equally with both parents or may spend more time in the home of a parent that is named the primary caretaker. The court order will define the days and times spent with each parent as well as holidays and summer vacation. 

When parents divorce who makes the final decision where you live?

In California, county superior court judges make the final decision on any custody and visitation issues that the parents do not agree to in a parenting plan. 

How does the judge come to a decision?

If the parents agree on a custody plan, the judge will usually approve it. If the parents cannot agree on a custody plan, they will, according to the law, have to speak with a mediator or counselor who will try to help them work out a plan. The judge will decide any disputed issues that parents are unable to resolve during mediation.


When will the judge consider what the child wants?

The law says when a child is "of sufficient capacity to reason," the judge must consider what the child says. The judge will consider what the child says but not necessarily follow it.  

Can a minor have a lawyer represent him or her during the custody proceeding?

Generally, no. A child custody proceeding is between the parents, and the parents are supposed to look out for the best interests of their children. However, if the judge feels that the parents are not acting in their children's best interests, she may appoint a lawyer to represent the children. 

What happens if the judge decides that one parent should not have physical custody, can the child still see that parent?

Generally, if one parent is given physical custody over a child, the court will order that the other parent be given generous visitation with the child, unless there is a good reason to restrict visitation such as domestic violence or the other parent's inability to care for the child. 

What if the custody arrangement doesn't work, can it be changed?

If the custody plan does not work, parents can change a custody arrangement if they come up with a new plan and ask a judge to make it official. If the parents can't agree on changes, they can ask a judge to make the change, but they need to show the judge that there has been a significant "change in circumstances" to merit a modification. The judge's decision will be based on what is in the child's best interests. However, getting the custody arrangement changed may be difficult if the child is well cared for or if the custody plan has been in effect for some time. 

What if the parent the child is living with won't let the child visit with the other parent?

The parent who has been denied court-ordered visitation with the child may ask the judge for a "contempt" order. This means that the parent denying visitation could receive court sanctions for continuing to refuse to allow visitation. If the judge finds that the parent who denied visitation did it on purpose, the other parent may have grounds for obtaining custody over the child. However, the judge may require the parents to try to work things out with the help of a mediator before going to court. 

Can someone other than parents have custody over a child?

California law says that judges first must consider giving custody to one parent or both. But a judge may give custody to another person such as a grandmother, step-parent or friend -- without the parents' consent -- if she believes that giving custody to either parent would be detrimental or harmful to the child and that the child would be better off with someone else. 

Can someone other than parents have a right to visit with the child?

A judge may give visiting rights to anyone interested in the child's welfare. The law specifically says that stepparents and grandparents who ask the court for visiting rights may attend mediation sessions along with parents. If no agreement is reached through mediation, the judge will decide whether stepparents and grandparents may visit the child. However, the grandparents will not be given visiting rights against the wishes of both parents.

Child Visitation

Child visitation is the time that a non custodial parent has to spend time with his/her children after a divorce or separation. The objective of child visitation is to allow both parents to be a part of the children's lives and develop a bond with them even though the marital bond between the parents no longer exists.
 
Did you know: Approximately 30 percent of all children in the United States live in single parent households and have a non custodial parent.
 
Did you know: In seven out of ten cases, child custody rights are awarded primarily to the mother of the children.
 
For More information on child visitation, visit:
 
 
 

Sources: http://www.childsupport.com/links/familylegalissues.asp, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Child_custody,