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Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Child Support in Avenal, CA

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Child Support in Avenal, CA


You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
 
- Maya Angelou


In many scenarios it is not required to have a lawyer to file for child support. You can file for child support yourself by filing the appropriate forms at your local Probate and Family Court.

You can also get orders for: 1) protection from abuse; 2) establishing paternity; 3) custody and visitation; 4) divorce; and 5) modification of an existing child support order if circumstances have changed. After you file your complaint, you may need to get it served by a sheriff or a constable. While there may be filing fees involved, you may be able to get them waived if your income is low or if you are on public assistance.

Many judges are patient and understanding with plaintiffs who do not have a lawyer. Child support is usually a standard calculation based on expenses and income and the court can help in enforcing the support collection.The federal Family Support Act of 1988 required every state to establish numerical child support guidelines. The guidelines are designed to overcome three of the persistent problems in the award of child support: 1) insufficient levels of support; 2) inconsistency of criteria used by judges; and 3) inefficiency in the adjudication of child support. They also serve to make the process more straightforward for custodial parents seeking child support without a lawyer.

The state guidelines are designed to balance the child's needs and the non-custodial parents' ability to pay. In most states, the basic child support obligation is calculated by combining the incomes of the parents and multiplying that figure by the percentages set forth in the guidelines. These percentages vary according to the number of children. This number, the total child support obligation due, is then assigned to the parents according to the proportion of their individual contributions to the parents' total income. The guidelines may be modified to award additional support for 1) child-care expenses; 2) maintenance of health and life insurance, or reimbursement of health-care expenses; 3) private school and college tuition; and 4) child-care expenses for parents seeking work.

Courts have the discretion to deviate from the guidelines for unique circumstances such as: 1) educational needs of either parent; 2) the needs of other children supported by the noncustodial parent; 3) extraordinary expenses required for the noncustodial parent to visit their children. In most cases, child support is awarded based on wages of the noncustodial parent reported on income tax returns.

Support is based on parenthood not marriage and may be awarded during or after a marriage, in a divorce proceeding, or in a separate support proceeding whether or not the parties have ever been married. The proceeding is usually relatively simple, because the issues are generally limited to the application of guidelines percentages to the income of the parents. In most states, the court will order that the child support be deducted from the noncustodial parent's wages by their employer and transmitted automatically to the custodial parent.

If the noncustodial parent falls behind on child support payments, there are many enforcement vehicles available in most states. These include income garnishing (deducting money from the noncustodial parent's wages), making a negative report to credit reporting agencies, collecting past-due child support from lottery prizes, intercepting tax refunds, seizing property (e.g. real estate and bank accounts), etc.

Many states have a parent locator service. If the noncustodial parent lives in a different state, the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act ("URESA") or a comparable statuteprovides for interstate collection of child support.

Transfers of assets to avoid payment of child support can often be set aside by a court. Furthermore, if the court determines that a parent transferred away resources to avoid child support obligations, that could form the basis for a finding of willful violation of a court order and result in a jail sentence.

Contact your local child support enforcement agency for more information.

If you are the noncustodial parent who is faced with child support that is more than you can pay, it may be possible to get the support order lowered to a more manageable level, especially if circumstances have changed.

Only you can decide if hiring a lawyer is right for you. Check out 12Law.com for listings of lawyers in your neighborhood.
 
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