Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Child Support Attorney Explains Visitation and Custody in California

Child Support Attorney
As a child support attorney, we regularly represent clients that want to make an adjustment to what they are paying in support.  In order to do this, you or your ex’s financial situation will have needed to change significantly, or an adjustment needs to be made to the custody and visitation schedule. 

In California, a parenting plan is established that determines where the child will be living and on what days they are with each parent.  In many cases, a child will primarily reside with one parent while seeing the other on weekends and during the evening once a week.  While this is a standard agreement, yours can be completely different, based on your needs and what is in the best interest of the child.  If you and your ex both live in the school district, it becomes much easier to arrange a unique shared parenting plan.  If, however, there is a distance between your homes or one lives in a different state, a judge will want to keep the child in the residence closest to their school during the school year. 

In most cases, even if one parent is awarded full custody the other will be granted visitation.  The amount of visitation can be adjusted up or down based on what is in the best interest of the child and the parents’ schedules. As a child support attorney, we understand that if you start spending more time with your children, the amount you pay in support should be reduced. This is often a good way to approach the adjustment.  We can file a Request for Order to Change or Modify a Previous Order.  This is a formal request to change how often you see your children and while doing so we will also request a modification to the support agreement. 

When the judge reviews our request, they will evaluate the current living situation for both parents along with what the child is used to.  As long as it doesn’t interfere with a child’s school schedule, a judge will typically agree to allow a child to spend as much time with both parents as is feasible.  They key is to demonstrate that the change would not disrupt the child’s life in any way or create a level of instability that they are not accustomed to.  

As a child support attorney, we always recommend going through the formalized process when making a major change to the parenting plan.  If you and your ex are helping each other out by switching days occasionally, that’s fine.  However, if you start to make a more permanent change such as taking them an additional day during the week, you should do it through the court system.  The reason being that if you are paying child support and start watching your child more often, the amount you pay in support will not change.  It will remain at a higher amount even though technically your ex is watching them less.  When you go through the process with the court, you can formalize the agreement so that they can’t go back to the old schedule without going back to court. 

Simultaneously, you can save money by getting your support order reduced.