Hiring a Child Support Lawyer
Legal separation of a marriage is a painful experience. While both partners have to go through the emotional trauma of having to part from each other and look at the division of assets that they once built together, children have an even more traumatic experience. They have to live with one parent for the rest of their lives. A divorce lawyer can help you take care of all the legalities involved in the divorce. You will also have to reach out to a child support lawyer to determine the amount towards child support.
Child support is an amount, agreed upon by both parties, that is to be used towards fulfilling the needs of the child/children. It is paid to the partner who retains custody of the child. The amount paid under child support is to be used for the child exclusively and includes expenses towards food, housing, clothing, education and healthcare of the child.
There is clear mandate that child support is to be used for the benefit of the child only. It cannot be used by either parent. It also cannot be used for purchase of luxury items as it is meant for providing basic necessities of the child.
How is the Child Support Amount Determined?
Both parents are required to submit their financial statements before the court. This statement is an account of the income and monthly expenses of each parent. Depending on the financial status of each parent and the amount of time they will spend with the child, the court decides the child support amount. In addition, the court may look at several other factors related to the child while determining the amount.
The court will review age, gender, educational track record, medical needs of the child. It will also consider the number of children involved, each parent’s track record on previous child support payments (if applicable) etc. before determining the amount.
Are There Instances When Child Support May be Reduced?
Usually child support payments are set for a long period of time. However, adjustments can be made to the child support payment in case of severe events in the life of the parent paying the amount. This is done through a process called the child support modification. The court may allow change in the child support amount in case of loss of employment, relocation, reduction in salary of the non- custodial parent.
These modifications cannot be done in all situations. It depends on the court’s discretion. For example, if the change in child support amount does not benefit the child, the court will not allow any modification. Usually most requests that come up before the court are for reduction of the child support amount. Sometimes there are requests for an increment so as to be able to accommodate new needs of the child.
Who Should Pay Child Support?
Child support amount is not decided on the basis of gender or marital status. In case there is any doubt on the paternity of the child, the court can order a paternity test. In most cases, one of the partners holds the custody of the child. This parent is called the custodial parent and the partner is called the non-custodial parent.
Usually, it is the non-custodial parent who is asked to pay child support. This is because the custodial parent will be spending more time and energy on the child and will hold more responsibilities of the child.
In case of step parents, there is no expectation of child support payment. However, in case the step parent has adopted the child then he or she is liable to pay child support.
The objective of the court in each case is to keep the well-being of the child. It strives to ensure that all needs of the child are met and there is enough money provided for the basic needs of the child.
What Happens If Child Support Is Not Paid?
Child support is mandatory and the court will intervene if it is reported that a person is not paying the mandated child support. The court will issue reminders to the defaulter. If the person still does not pay the amount, the court may order legal action against the person. The court may charge contempt order or even initiate criminal proceedings.
In many cases, the court orders wage garnishment. This means that the employer of the person is asked to set aside a certain amount from the person’s salary towards the pending child support amount.
How to Find a Child Support Lawyer?
Child support laws are complex and you will need an expert to help you get the rightful amount for your child. It is not an easy task to decide on a mutually agreed amount and then get the other partner to pay you the amount on a regular basis. If you are looking for a child support lawyer, here’s what you can do. You can check online for contacts or you can ask your friends and family for references.
Search Online: Most lawyers advertise their firms and services online these days. You can search for Child Support Lawyers online. Look for lawyers who practice near you.
Ask for Referrals: Ask your friends and family for contacts of child support lawyers they would know. You can also check their websites and understand previous cases they have handled and their success rates.
Benefits of Hiring a Child Support Lawyer
If you are wondering if you should invest money in a child support lawyer, here are some benefits of hiring one:
1. Filing Paperwork Accurately
Child support lawyer file paperwork related to their cases on a regular basis. It is difficult for a layman to tackle child support all on his own. By hiring a child support lawyer, you can tackle the paperwork easily. The process will be faster too. In addition, you can rest assured that all your paperwork will be accurate and without errors.
2. Play by the Rules
You wouldn’t know the child support rules in detail. A Child Support lawyer is an expert in the subject and can help you with its nuances. They can foresee loopholes that your errant partner might use to not pay child support and protect your child’s welfare. He will also remind you of all the deadlines you need to follow. He will also oversee your court dates and ensure that you are present at each one of them.
3. Quick Turnaround When Rules are Flouted
A lot of defaulters change their addresses or relocate, in order to reduce the amount or default on child support. Your lawyer can help in such a situation. He can advise you on how to file for wage garnishment and help you secure the amount your partner owes you towards child support. In such an event, your lawyer can quickly take action to protect your interests.
4. Setting Up the Right Child Support Amount
An experienced child support lawyer can help you get the right amount for your child. He can help you understand the rules and negotiate with the court. This helps in settling on an amount that is sufficient to meet your child’s needs.
5. Out of Court Settlements
Usually such cases are settled out of court, in the presence of each parent’s lawyers. Hiring a lawyer can help you negotiate for the rightful amount with your partner’s lawyer. Your lawyer can help you understand your rights and successfully claim an amount that perfectly suits your child’s requirements.
How Much Money Do I Need to Spend?
The amount you need to pay the lawyer will depend on the goal you are chasing. While some lawyers will charge you a flat rate, there will be some others who will charge you on hourly basis. A lawyer will calculate the number of hours, the number of resources and other services that need to put to your case and charge you a retainer. You will be expected to pay this retainer fee in advance. The lawyer will deduct his operational charges from the retainer and bill you the overhead expenses.
What Should I Look for in a Child Support Lawyer?
Do consult your family lawyer to understand what you should expect from your case. Before you meet a child support lawyer, it is important that you have a clear goal in mind. Do you want to increase the child support you are receiving, or reduce the child support you are paying or get your errant partner to clear the arrears?
If you have setting up a meeting with a child support lawyer, you must carry relevant documents with you. This will help the lawyer understand your case better. Here’s a list of some of the documents you should carry with you:
- Records of payment made till date
- Tax returns statements from the previous years
- Investment bonds or documents of retirement plans you have invested in
- Documents of investment in properties
- Documents related to your divorce
- Documents showing changes in employment status
- Documents showing paternity or adoption
Questions You Should Ask a Child Support Lawyer
Asking the right questions is extremely important. It helps you understand the person you are going to work with, his way of working, his expectations from the case etc. The more clarity you have on your case, the easier it will be for you to work with your lawyer. In addition, it is important that you establish a comfortable working relationship with him or her.
1. Have you handled cases like mine before?
You need to understand your lawyer’s area of speciality. For instance, your lawyer may be a family lawyer who can help you with your divorce, but may not have dealt with child support cases. In case there is arrest involved, you might want to get a criminal lawyer involved. Speak to the lawyer in clear terms and understand how many child support cases he has handled before. This will help you estimate his skill and whether he can help you achieve your goal or not.
2. Can you give me a few references of your previous clients?
An honest and transparent lawyer will not shy away from sharing contacts of happy clients. You can call up his previous clients or even meet them in person to understand their experience with the lawyer. This will help you understand the lawyer’s temperament and also gain insights into his style of working.
3. What do you make of my case?
Show your documents to the lawyer and ask him what he thinks could be the possible outcome. Discuss in detail the highlights and lowlights of your case. Understand what he plans to do if the outcome is not in your favour. Do not get bedazzled by lawyers who promise you unrealistic outcomes. Stay grounded and understand who is giving you a realistic picture and who is not.
4. What certifications do you hold?
It is important to understand the certifications that your lawyer holds. Some bar associations offer special certifications which allows family lawyers to take up special cases such as child support.
5. Who will handle my case?
If you are working with a law firm, you will be assigned a lawyer by the firm. It isn’t necessary that the person you speak to would be the person who will handle your case. Speak to the firm’s representative clearly, who will be assigned to your case. If the lawyer is working with a team, try and meet them up too. Always make sure you know the people who have access to your information.
6. What will your fees be?
Understand the charges from your lawyer. This will help you prepare for the expenditure involved and you won’t be taken by surprise at the end of the case. It is necessary to understand the breakup of the fees that the lawyer will be charging you. Make sure you have understood the financial aspect completely before you engage the lawyer.
Child support is a complicated twist post a divorce. While you are already going through an emotional turmoil, you do not want to deprive your children of their basic rights. Find yourself a good lawyer and let the professional handle your child support anxieties.