California Court Discusses Liability for Child Support Arrears

When parents share custody of a child, it is not uncommon for the court to order the higher-earning parent to pay child support. The parties’ income can change over time, however, making modifications of child support orders necessary. As explained in a recent California case, such changes do not change the obligation to pay past due amounts. If you have questions about your financial obligations or rights with regard to your child, it is wise to talk to a Bay Area child support attorney at your earliest convenience.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that the mother and the father had a child in 2004; they divorced and were granted joint custody of the child. In 2017, the family court ordered the father to pay monthly child support of approximately $1,200, and he was found to owe close to $7,400 in arrears. In December 2018, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) filed a stipulation and order, referred to as the 2018 Order, stating that the father would pay a minimum of $100 per month for a driver’s license and occupational licensing agreement with DCSS, emphasizing it as a temporary arrangement.

Reportedly, in November 2019, the father sought a court order specifying the child support the mother had to pay under the 2018 Order. The family court, in September 2020, granted Father primary physical custody, modified his monthly payment to $0 as of December 2019, but retained his arrears. In June 2021, DCSS claimed the father owed almost $8,000 in arrears through November 2019. Father, in August 2021, sought a determination of support arrears, arguing that, based on the 2018 Order, the mother should be responsible for child support in 2019.

Liability for Child Support Arrears

The court, in its analysis, highlighted that the 2018 Order lacked essential elements for a child support modification, such as an ordered amount of child support, a declaration of informed consent from both parties and confirmation of the stipulated amount meeting the children’s needs. The court dismissed the typographical error of marking the mother as the “respondent” instead of the “petitioner” in the 2018 Order, clarifying that it did not alter child support.

The court further refuted the father’s arguments, including claims of clerical errors and DCSS’s standing. The court ultimately affirmed that the 2018 Order neither modified child support nor dictated that the mother pay support, emphasizing that it solely obligated the father to pay $100 per month to DCSS. As such, the court rejected the father’s contentions, upholding the family court’s decision and DCSS’s standing in the matter.

Meet with a Skilled California Child Support Attorney

Parents must provide for their children financially, which in many shared child custody cases means that the courts will order one party to pay child support. If you have concerns about protecting your interests in a child support action, it is prudent to meet with an attorney. The skilled California child support attorneys of Bay Area Family Law Center can assess the facts of your case and advise you regarding your options. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 925-258-2020 to set up a conference.

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