Options for maintaining child support while unemployed

The circumstances of your life are constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean your obligation to pay child support will. California requires both parents to help meet the financial needs of raising their child or children. So while changes in your income can alter your responsibility somewhat, you still need to go through the legal process to make it official and avoid punishment. But what can you do when you’re unemployed and have no income? 

At Azemika & Azemika Law, we specialize in many aspects of Kern County family law, including maintaining child support during difficult times. Because California courts make child support judgments in the best interest of the child, there are times when you may feel the amount you must pay is overwhelming or unrealistic. Thankfully, there are solutions available to ensure you keep making your payments on time—and we can help you sort through the options that best match your situation.

In this article, we’ll outline how different forms of unemployment can impact your child support obligations. We’ll also analyze how courts can calculate changes to your payment obligation should you find yourself unemployed. Then, with the help of an experienced family law attorney in Bakersfield, you can take the necessary steps to adjust your child support payments. 

Types of Unemployment

For child support, California considers three different types of unemployment:

  • Voluntary unemployment, wherein a parent chooses not to work (or loses their job) but doesn’t seek new employment.
  • Involuntary unemployment, where a parent loses their job through circumstances beyond their control and is unable to secure work despite their best efforts.
  • Voluntary underemployment, which sees a parent choosing to work less or receiving total income less than they were when the judge issued the initial child support order.

A judge will look at your specific circumstances to determine whether or not an adjustment to your child support order is valid. Understandably, courts don’t view all cases with sympathy. For example, if you quit your job and opt not to look for a new job, that’s a personal decision within your control that will warrant an adjustment.

A judge is more likely to adjust if you can demonstrate that the reason for your job loss or underemployment wasn’t your choice. For example, suppose budget cuts resulted in your termination, and you have been diligently searching for a new job. In that case, it’s more likely that a judge will alter the original support order until you can find employment. However, if you were terminated due to poor performance or bad behavior and still can’t find a job, that’s not out of your control.

However, the circumstances of why you’re unemployed aren’t the only factor determining a change in a child support order. Besides investigating cases, California courts must decide what you should still pay, if anything, following state guidelines. To do this, they use imputed income to make a final calculation.

What Is Imputed Income?

Imputed income could be thought of as a baseline salary you could be making if you were still working full-time. However, rather than look at the job you previously held, courts usually use state or federal minimum wage guidelines to determine what you should continue paying. While this doesn’t altogether remove your child support responsibilities, it could reduce them considerably. 

Another purpose of imputed income is to punish parents who are acting in bad faith. For example, a parent who goes out of their way to get fired, or chooses to quit and not seek work, could be doing so intending to hurt their former spouse. Imputed income ensures they can’t weaponize unemployment against their ex-partner or their child.

Imputed income isn’t always used by courts when a parent is suffering hardships, however. For example, if you’re able to demonstrate that you’re putting in your best effort to secure work or have a valid reason for not seeking employment (like staying home to care for a loved one), imputed income likely won’t come into play. Instead, a judge may make a temporary change in your payments until you find work or can return to work.

What Counts As Income?

When they crafted your initial child support order, the courts looked at more than your employment wages to determine what you should pay. These revenue streams, such as stocks, bonds, and other investments, contributed to that final figure. So even when you’re unemployed, those additional revenue streams will still count towards your total income. 

That being the case, you may need to sell some assets to illustrate that you’re doing everything you can to meet your payment obligations, even if you aren’t actively earning an income from working. It’s a factor in showing that you’re doing everything to meet your obligations. However, this doesn’t apply to all assets, nor is it a steadfast rule.

You Can Count on Azemika Law

The complexities of child support laws can be overwhelming on their own, but meeting your responsibilities on top of unemployment can feel like an impossible task. However, how you try to solve the problem can significantly impact your future, so it’s best to work with Bakersfield’s best family law attorneys.

That’s where we come in.

At Azemika & Azemika Law, we have expertise in family law, including child support, child custody and visitation, father visitation, and divorce. Let us help you navigate these and other changes in your family life with compassion and understanding. Reach out to our office now to discuss your needs and learn what we can do for you.

Can paternity results be challenged?

Are you wondering if you can challenge paternity test results to determine if the results are accurate? The short answer is —  Yes. A paternity test is vital to establish who the true father is of a child. Once verified, it places legal rights and responsibilities on the individual to provide support and care for the child.  

There are different reasons why someone would want to establish or challenge paternity.

Before you begin, it is wise to research and choose solid legal support to help you gather evidence and build your case. Whether you are the mother or the presumed father who wants to explore the results of a paternity test, the outcome will have a significant effect on your life.

Going through the paternity process can be emotionally and mentally draining. Today, we will look into why establishing paternity is essential, the reasons one might want to challenge a paternity test, and how to challenge the results. We are here to help you navigate this complex issue and the family court system.

Why Establishing Paternity Is Important

In child custody cases, the outcome of a paternity test determines who will have input in raising a child, their daily life, schooling, medical decisions, and financial responsibility, which is excellent if you are the father and want shared custody. For a mother, paternity tests can help establish the right to financial support from the father and access to the crucial medical history of the father.

Perhaps a parent wants to collect support for a child, and you don’t believe it is your child. You don’t want the financial or legal responsibilities, you will need help challenging paternity.

Raising and being responsible for a child is a lifetime commitment. If you have a question, it is best to find out the truth sooner rather than later. If you are considering filing a paternity suit, here are some of the reasons why you may want or be able to take the next step.

Reasons To Challenge Paternity

While testing is primarily accurate, sometimes the results are wrong. Utilizing medical evidence in establishing the father of a child is normal, and here are the grounds for challenging the results are as follows:

  • Lab results that are inconclusive or inaccurate
  • Lab results are fraudulent because someone else went to the lab to take the test instead of the presumed father
  • Presumed father provides proof of infertility or sterility
  • Evidence that the results of the test were tampered with by someone
  • Proof of infidelity in the marriage 
  • To prove a child is yours in a child custody case
  • To establish a child is not yours in a custody or support case
  • To determine the child’s father for child support and to have access to the fathers medical history

If this sounds like you or someone you know, there may have grounds for a paternity suit. Protect your rights and privileges and the rights and privileges of the child you love.

Ways To Challenge Paternity

Establishing paternity and challenging paternity is done through very similar methods. State laws differ, so seeking local legal advice from an attorney is best to help navigate the complex state laws in family court.

Filing a complaint with the court is the first step. The court will likely order DNA tests for the child and the father to determine the actual father. The court allows the use of medical documents and blood tests as evidence. DNA is the most accurate way to determine paternity and is the final factor. Once a DNA test is complete, the court will officially establish who is the child’s father with a Declaration of Paternity.

Another thing that some states consider is the emotional and psychological impact on the child if a man has been considered their father for many years, which can make proving paternity more difficult.

We Can Help You Challenge Paternity

Determining if the evidence provided is sufficient to use in court to challenge paternity results is best done by an experienced attorney. You don’t have to navigate the legal challenges and the family court system alone. We have helped many people in your circumstances.

At Azemika & Azemika, we understand the complexities of state laws and the family court system. The issues that you are facing are emotionally, financially, and legally challenging. Our practice is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. As a result, we can handle cases involving divorce, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. With efficiency and great attention to detail, our partners at Azemika & Azemika use our vast experience in family law to customize each case to our clients’ needs.

Contact us today for a consultation, and we will work with you to determine the best option for your future.

What Can I Do If a Parent Is Not Paying Child Support?

Has your former partner stopped paying their court-ordered child support? Sadly, it’s a widespread occurrence —  a 2018 Census report showed that less than half of custodial parents received their full child support benefits. Many parents face this very situation and feel an increased pressure to meet the expenses that come with raising their child.

Adding to this already overwhelming problem are the complications involved in tracking down and communicating with your former partner. Did they leave the state and cut off communication? If you can find them, are they combative and unwilling to pay? Though this can put you in a lonely and challenging position, you aren’t alone. Thankfully, there are other ways to remedy the situation.

In California, custodial parents can file a complaint in court against the non-custodial parent for not paying child support (or not making payments in total). From there, the weight of resolving the problem is off your shoulders. The legal system will begin the process of notifying your former partner and getting the payments for you.

At Azemika Law, we are deeply involved with California divorce law and work with clients struggling to get the child support payments they’re entitled to. We wrote this guide to illustrate how California parents can get late, missing, or incomplete child support payments. Read on to discover your options.

Reporting Non-Payment

If your ex-partner has stopped sending payments in part or in full, the first step to remedy the situation is to bring a copy of your order to a child support agency. One of our Kern County family law attorneys can help you through the process of proving your ex-partner did not pay child support. The agency will then begin the work of collecting the missing money.

As a state department, the child support agency has many resources to locate a non-paying partner and get your child support payments. The first step is to send the non-paying parent notifications and a time frame in which to respond. Should they fail to respond, the agency may move on to any other methods listed below.

Suspension of Drivers Licence

The child support agency will contact the department of motor vehicles and notify them of the issue. In compliance with state law, the DMV will refuse to renew the non-paying parent’s driver’s license until they pay their debt. They may instead suspend or revoke the license. Depending on the severity of the situation, the DMV may choose to issue them a temporary license while your ex-partner makes back payments.

Suspension of Professional Licenses

By suspending professional or occupational licenses, the state prevents the non-custodial parent from working in specialized occupations. Often, this happens in concurrence with driver’s license suspension or immediately afterward. The lack of professional licensing prevents them from legally holding well-paying jobs in related fields and serves as the first financial punishment against them.

Credit Reporting

An often overlooked fact following divorce is that not meeting the child and spousal support obligations can hurt one’s credit score. Ideally, this adds additional pressure on your ex-partner to make payments. Unfortunately, if their credit score is already low, they may not care or even notice. However, the efforts don’t end there.

Collect Wages and Other Money

If your ex-partner collects disability, workers compensation, or a tax refund, the state of California can collect it instead and use it to pay missing child support as well as use it towards future payments. Sometimes, this occurs alongside wage garnishment. 

Passport Suspension

If your ex-partner owes $2,500 or more in unpaid child support, they risk losing their passport until they meet their financial obligations. If they don’t have a passport, this will prevent them from getting one.

Filing A Motion of Contempt

If payments don’t resume after filing your complaint, it can become a criminal matter. At this point, you can file a motion of contempt with the court to hold the other parent liable to more severe penalties. Our firm can assist you through this process. However, keep in mind that there is a three-year statute of limitations on child support in California, so there comes a point where it is too late to collect on past payments.

California advises parents not to file a motion of contempt before using other methods because it carries both civil and criminal penalties. In some circumstances, a parent found guilty could even serve jail time.

Once you file the motion of contempt, a judge will hold a hearing to determine if the non-payments were intentional. That’s where the contempt itself lies: because child support, alimony, and other forms of spousal support are court-ordered, disregarding them is contempt of court. If found guilty, the court can enact any of the following punishments.

  • Wage garnishment or direct garnishment of their bank accounts
  • Order payments from benefit sources (pension, disability), gambling winnings, community property
  • Order the sale of their property to make back payments
  • Community service for at least 120 hours but increasing with each case of contempt
  • Payment of your legal fees going back to your first attempt to collect back payments
  • Rarely, a judge may order a fine for each case of contempt, but that is becoming less frequent
  • Jail time

These are only some of the penalties a California court can impose. However, there are potential federal punishments based on how much money they owe and if they deliberately attempted to avoid making them. Federal cases carry the most severe penalties, but state-level courts cannot impose them.

What If There’s a Reason for Non-Payment?

Your ex-partner may not be in the financial position to make payments. They may have even communicated this to you. However, simply stating this, even if they can demonstrate it to you, isn’t enough to remove their child support responsibilities. 

A California child support agency allows parents to modify a child support order for many reasons, including financial hardship. So your ex-spouse will need to go through the process as soon as they realize they can’t meet their responsibilities. Should things go to court, hardship can’t be used as a defense if they didn’t try to modify the agreement on those grounds, even if they can demonstrate that they did not have the money. 

Azemika Law Can Help

If you need help understanding the complexities of California divorce laws or would like an experienced attorney to help you work through divorce as efficiently as possible, call on our attorneys at Azemika & Azemika
We are experts in Kern County family law who bring compassion and honesty to everything that we do. We’ll treat you and your family with respect and confidentiality as we help you achieve the best outcome possible. Contact us today to learn more about our expertise and what we can do to help you.