Understanding State Child Support Laws and Guidelines

Child support is the government's means of ensuring that children enjoy the financial security that a two-parent home would have afforded them. This is the primary moral concern of child support laws --- that children be well provided for --- and it is based on the principle of responsibility.

The existence of children is caused by impregnation, wherein two parties, male and female, are involved. Child support laws exist on the premise that the cause is responsible for the effect, which determines who will be responsible for ensuring that children enjoy the financial security of a two-parent home: namely, the biological mother and father.

An Introduction to Child Support Law and Guidelines

Because the moral basis for child support laws are so self-evident, they have not suffered questioning or debate; and, as a result, it has been possible for the state to formulate a standard equation (called a guideline) that, in all cases, determines who will pay child support and how much that child support will be. Simply, it balances the difference of each parent's income against the difference in time that the children spend with each parent, while accounting for the number of children involved. (See the link at the end of this article for a child support calculator.)

Moral Basis of Child Support Laws:

1. Children should enjoy the financial security that a two-parent home would have afforded them.

2. A cause is responsible for its effect. In this case, biological parents are the cause that effects a child.

While the primary function of child support laws is to ensure that children are provided for, the principle of responsibility ensures that neither of the responsible parties is taken advantage of in the process, and the equation reflects this.

The Intended Fairness of Child Support Decisions

Because child support rulings have become so standardized as to follow a set equation, the litigation process is mostly concerned with defining the variables of income and time spent in custody of children. While these two factors seem straightforward, they are not. Establishing either of these in court is a matter of some expertise. And should either of these factors be misrepresented, the monthly amount due in child support will vary greatly, most likely to one's long-term disadvantage; or, if misrepresented in one's favor, whether intentionally or not, could be grounds for a charge of perjury. (Also, there is the issue of paternity and maternity, but science makes this a simple matter of DNA analysis.)

The fairness of a child support decision depends on the full and accurate representation of one's financial circumstances and custody allotment at the time of the decision. Provided that these two factors have been accurately represented, the guideline will yield a fair decision for all parties. But, should anyone's financial circumstances change or should the time that the children spend with each parent change, the ruling that was previously fair and balanced will have become unbalanced and unfair. Therefore, it is important that child support orders be updated when circumstances change.

Exceptions to a State's Child Support Guidelines

There are exceptions to the use of the state's guideline or standard formula. If both parents agree to a non-guideline amount, and if the judge agrees that the amount is in the interest of the children involved, this amount can serve as the court's ruling, in place of the default or guideline amount.

Possible Rulings in a Child Support Case:
  • Guideline Ruling: with the assistance of their attorneys, both parties establish their income and custody allotment. The judge then plugs these factors into a state formula called a guideline, yielding the child support amount.

  • Non-Guideline Ruling: though both parties have been informed what the guideline ruling would have been, they agree to an alternative amount. The judge decides whether or not this amount is in the interest of the child/children, and, if it is, this becomes the child support amount.

    What To Do When Parental Support or Circumstances Change

    If you should be receiving child support and are not, or if you are receiving child support but either your or your former spouse's financial or custodial circumstances have changed since the ruling, consider the following courses of action.

    Anyone receiving public assistance may contact his/her local Child Support Services center in order to open or reopen a child support case. Otherwise, one has the option of representing oneself in court or hiring a family law attorney.

    While one is entitled to represent one's self in court, this is never advisable. The law and its procedures are highly complex, with many nuances, and ignorance of the law is never acknowledged. The judge will proceed as if you know the law completely, and every statement you make or don't make will hold you accountable as if you had a license to practice law.

    Possible Courses of Action:

  • Contact Local CSS: if you are receiving public assistance, the local Child Support Services will handle your child support case, as well as the enforcement of a prior case.

  • Hire an Attorney: if you are not receiving public assistance, this option is strongly advised, in order to ensure that you are, in all respects, properly represented and receive a fair ruling.

  • Represent One's Self: this option bypasses the fees involved with hiring an attorney, but misrepresentation due to ignorance of the law could result in far greater financial consequences in the form of a higher child support amount, or even charges of perjury.

    In Conclusion...

    The law has concluded that it takes a male and a female to conceive a child. Therefore, the law recognizes that both parties conducted their affairs in such a way as to bring a child into the world, so both parties have a responsibility to the child to provide parental care and support. Both parents remain legally responsible for the care of their children until the child is 18 years of age, or until all children have passed their 18th birthday.

    But, in the course of a child's upbringing, the financial circumstances of one or both parents might change. Job promotion or loss could significantly affect a parent's income status in such a way as to nullify the fairness of the original child support judgment. Either party has the right to request their child support case to be reevaluated by a judge, taking into account the current financial condition of the parties involved.

    If you are concerned about the validity of your case, please consult an attorney for advice.

    Written by Amerion Abler. If you need a California family law attorney, contact the Law Offices of Dishon and Block, APC at 877-347-7658 or http://www.cadivorce.com. If financial changes have created hardships for one parent, then ask the courts to modify or lower child support payments.

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