Child Support In Metairie
Any parent who has custody of a child in Louisiana may be eligible to receive child support from the non-custodial parent. This includes married, unmarried, and divorced parents. Navigating the child support system is not always easy, and even the most amicable couples can run into conflicts when deciding who should pay child support, and how much. Knowing your rights and responsibilities will make the process easier, and will save you from costly mistakes.
Who is Obligated To Pay Child Support?
Biological parents are obligated to support their children and may be required to make child support payments to the parent who has primary custody of the children. Step-parents are not obligated to pay child support unless they have legally adopted their step-children.
The obligation to pay child support continues until the child reaches the age of 18, or, until the age of 20 if the child is still in high school. If a child has a diagnosed developmental disability, child support may continue until the child reaches the age of 22, but only as long as the child is enrolled in a secondary or vocational school. If the child has been determined to have an intellectual capacity less than two-thirds of that of a non-disabled child of the same age, a court can order child support to continue indefinitely.
Although a court cannot order a parent to pay child support or contribute to the education expenses of a child over the age of 18, the parents can make provisions for their children’s post-secondary education as part of a divorce or custody settlement. The terms of the agreement should be stated clearly, so each parent understands their obligations. Even when the parents have reached an agreement, any written settlement agreement should be drafted by a Louisiana family law attorney.
Who Can Receive Child Support?
If a parent has been awarded primary custody in a divorce, or as a separate custody proceeding, that parent is entitled to receive child support from the non-custodial parent. A parent who has physical custody of a child, even without an award of custody by a court, may receive child support from the non-custodial parent.
Grandparents who have been awarded custody of their grandchildren may receive child support from the parents of the child.
How is the Amount of Child Support Determined?
Determining the appropriate amount of child support can be difficult, and is often a source of conflict between parents. The state of Louisiana uses statutory guidelines to determine the amount of child support, although the circumstances of an individual case may warrant deviations from the published guidelines. The child support guidelines are found in the Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 9.
The calculation begins with a formula using the parents’ incomes. Based on the total income of both parents, the overall amount of support for one, two, or more children is set forth in the guidelines. Once the base support obligation has been determined, the statute provides for additions to, and subtractions from, the base figure. Necessary child care expenses and health insurance premiums for the child are added to the base amount. The parties can agree, or a court can order other expenses to be added, such as private school tuition or transportation to the non-custodial parent’s residence for visitation.
The total support obligation, including health insurance and child care expenses, is set forth in the statutory guidelines. The portion of each parent’s share of the total support obligation is then calculated according to that parent’s share of the total income for both parties. The following example illustrates how the calculation works:
- The annual income of the custodial parent is $30,000.
- The annual income of the non-custodial parent is $70,000.
- The total child support obligation is determined to be $1,000 per month.
- The custodial parent’s share of the child support obligation is 30%, or $300.
- The non-custodial parent’s share of the child support obligation is 70%, or $700.
- The non-custodial parent must pay $700 to the custodial parent.
When the parents share custody, the amount of child support depends on the amount of time the child spends with each parent. In the above example, the total support obligation would remain at $1,000, and the parents’ share would remain the same. The amount owed by the higher earning parent, however, would be reduced by 50%, and the total payment to the lower earning parent would be $350.
Common Issues in Child Support Cases
The Louisiana child support guidelines seem straightforward, but in reality, calculating the correct amount of child support is not that simple. Common areas of disagreement are:
What is the actual income of the parties? If a parents’ only source of income is a salaried or hourly job, determining income is fairly easy. If a parent is self-employed or has investment income, determining income for child support purposes may be more complicated. Parties often try to hide their income to avoid their support obligations.
What if a parent refuses to work? The statute does cover the situation in which one parent is voluntarily unemployed, or underemployed. A court can impute income to a parent based upon the parent’s education, training, age, past job history, and other factors. Unemployment due to disability, however, is not considered voluntary.
What is a reasonable child care expense? If a custodial parent works, that person may have to place the children in a child care facility during working hours. Disputes often arise over who is entitled to choose an appropriate facility, whether the cost of the chosen facility is reasonable, and whether other childcare options, such as family member, are available.
Changes in Circumstances
Child Support in Louisiana may always be changed if either parent experiences a change in circumstances. Some factors that may warrant a reduction of the increase in a child support may include:
- Changes in employment by either party.
- A change in custody, or a modification of a shared custody arrangement.
- Emancipation or marriage of a child.
- A marriage of either of the parents.
- Relocation of a parent of a child.
- Illness or disability of a parent of a child.
Talk to a Family Law Attorney in Metairie
Whether you are obligated to pay child support or trying to collect child support, you should know your rights and responsibilities before entering into any agreement. An experienced Louisiana child support lawyer can help you determine the amount of support you should be paying or receiving. If any disputes arise, you will need someone by your side who can fight for your rights. Attorney Candice Bennatt focuses her practice on family law matters, including child support cases, so she is able to keep up with the most recent developments in this complex field. Call 504-777-3500 for a confidential consultation today.