Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Orange County Family Law Blog

Under what circumstances can I seek to change child support?

For Orange County, California, parents who live in separate homes, child support is going to be part of their lives. Courts see child support not only as a part of a paternity or divorce case but also as an extension of a child's right to be nourished and cared for by both of the child's parents.

The upside to this view about child support is that, unlike other aspects of family law, child support orders can be changed from time to time. In California, if a parent wants to change his or her support order and cannot get the other parent to agree to it, the parent can file a request for a support modification in court.

The role of a parenting coordinator in custody cases

A previous post on this blog talked about the role a guardian ad litem has in a child custody case in Orange, California. This blog has also previously reported on mediators, who are third parties that help parents and their attorneys resolve their custody disputes over custody or parenting time outside of court.

Another third party that parents might use in an effort to get their custody issues solved is a parenting coordinator. While a parenting coordinator does some of the same things as a guardian ad litem and a mediator, their role is slightly different.

What is the role of a guardian ad litem?

Orange County, California, custody disputes can be difficult. For one, even the best of intentioned parents may find it difficult to agree on how to resolve their case, as it is difficult to divide a child the way one would money or even a piece of property. In other cases, there are very sensitive issues like child abuse or domestic violence in play. Finally, there are some situations, such as when a child has some special needs, where it just makes sense for a child to have someone on their side representing their interests in custody litigation.

In such cases or in other special situations, a California court may appoint what is called a "guardian ad litem." Unlike other guardians, the guardian ad litem, or GAL, does not have any real power to make decisions for the child; parents aren't being punished or having their rights taken away when a GAL gets involved in a case. The GAL may have power to conduct an investigation in to the child's well-being, but that is really all he or she can do.

Representing clients when income capacity is an issue

A previous post on this blog has already explained how our law office can help Orange County residents when they are having a dispute over how much income they should have to county, or, for that matter, how much they are entitled to take as credits for expenses, when it comes to calculating child support.

However, of late this blog has mentioned that California courts can in certain circumstances choose not to use a person's actual income in a child support calculation but instead use a parent's income capacity. A judge is most likely to do this when a parent has worked a good-paying job, or seems capable of doing so, yet does not have a decent income at the time child support gets calculated and thus pays less.

Courts may consider "earning capacity" in child support cases

Previous posts on this blog have talked about how Orange County, California courts, consistent with state law, ordinarily are going to determine child support based on what each parent actually makes in income from various sources and will back out certain qualified expenses. Some might wonder, however, what would happen if a parent, wishing to be spiteful or just feeling more freedom to do what he or she wants in life, decides to quit his or her good paying job and either not work at all or work at a job that pays a lot less. Especially if this is just part of an effort to avoid paying child support, such behavior can be very frustrating for the other parent who is trying to make sure the children have their financial needs met.

The good news is that judges have discretion to consider what a parent could be earning, or "earning capacity" either in lieu of or in addition to what the parent is actually making. This does not mean that a judge would second guess a parent who has honestly lost his or her job and is just having a hard time finding another job that pays as well.

Should I bring my attorney to child custody mediation?

A recent post on this blog discussed how many California courts will encourage, or even require, medication when parents in the Stockton are having a child custody or parenting time dispute. While not appropriate in all cases, mediation is often good in the sense that it encourages parents to come to agreements about their children, which usually benefits the kids long-term.

Some might think that having legal representation during a mediation is not necessary, since the process is, after all, about negotiation. In many cases, mediators may prefer that attorneys not be heavily involved in the process.

Counting the income of a former partner's new companion

One frustration an Orange County, California, parent may face when it comes to child support is when the other parent is underemployed and thus, under the general rules that apply to child support calculations, does not have to pay as much in support. This situation is especially frustrating when the other parent had a good paying job and traded it for something that does not pay as much.

A reason either parent might quit work at a good-paying job is that he or she is now with a new partner who makes enough to support the household. In this case, the parent may decide to stay home full time and then claim that he or she is entitled to a reduction in child support.

Child support orders and health insurance

One of the many child support issues a parent in Orange County, California, might face is the question of health insurance. Most Californians, particularly those who work full time, probably appreciate the importance of having insurance for themselves and thus buy it, even though it is very expensive.

However, it may be quite tempting for a parent not to want to foot the bill for his or her children if he or she sees a more affordable alternative. This is often simply a matter of financial survival, as expenses mount up even in daily life, much less in the wake of a significant court proceeding like a divorce or other child support case.

Is mediation always appropriate in child custody cases?

Many people in Orange County have often heard that it is always better for parents wo are not living together to work out their visitations involving child custody and parenting time outside of court if at all possible. Parents who are able to get along on issues involving their kids give their children a greater sense of stability.

In this respect, even this blog has emphasized the different ways parents can come to a mutual understanding about parenting time and custody without having to go in front of a judge and, "fight it out," at least in a legal forum.

Modifications of divorce, or paternity, orders

Particularly when a child is still small, an Orange County couple who has divorced or who has never been married may discover as time goes on that the court's paternity order or divorce decree simply no longer fits their situation. In this case, especially since it may have been months or even years since the original court order got entered, these people may wonder what exactly their options are.

Fortunately, in California, people can solve these sorts of family law problems simply by going to court and asking the court to modify the divorce decree or paternity order. California law recognizes that, especially when it comes to raising and providing for children, circumstances often change and can sometimes change profoundly. Courts therefore have ongoing authority to supervise a child's situation with respect to custody, visitation and support and also to make changes when they are called for.

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