After several studies conducted in the 1980s found significant inconsistencies in how judges across the nation calculate child support, the federal government enacted laws requiring every state to establish their own specific child support guidelines. Although the action did help courts determine appropriate child support payment awards, it also resulted in substantial variation in child support awards between states. Because of these discrepancies, it can be difficult for parents to predict how much they can expect when seeking a child support order from a family court, particularly if parents reside in different states.
Collecting child support payments when the non-custodial parent resides in a different state can be more complicated and time-consuming than cases with both parents living in the same state. However, whether the other parent lives in another state or is considering a move, you do have legal options for enforcing child support orders across state lines. Federal law states that orders from family court must be enforced in any state, and judges can hold the non-custodial parent in contempt of court for refusing to make the required monthly payments.
You may contact your local Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) to petition the family court to conduct a review of your support order and request modifications. If you do not already have a court order, you must first file with your state before seeking support from the out-of-state parent. Your state of residence is the “initiating state,” and is responsible for contacting the state where the other parent resides (the “responding state”) to begin this process. You do not need to directly communicate with the responding state, only the state judicial system or CSEA office in your state.
Family court can enforce a child support order across states lines through these methods:
In California, if the judge holds the delinquent parent in contempt of court, they can order a variety of penalties aimed at collecting support, including:
In some cases involving a non-custodial parent residing in a different state, the US Office of the Inspector Generator may intervene to recover outstanding payments. In any of these three following situations, the federal government can prosecute a delinquent parent:
Under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Acts, relocating to evade a child support obligation is considered a felony crime. If convicted, penalties for a first offense can include fines, a jail sentence of up to 6 months, or both. Penalties increase to a maximum fine of $250,000, a two-year jail sentence, or both when:
Depending on whether the delinquent parent chooses to cooperate or tries to neglect their duties, the process of enforcing child support orders across state borders ranges from relatively easy to extremely difficult. Seeking legal representation from a qualified family law attorney ensures you know exactly how to navigate this process to reach the best possible outcome for your child. An experienced attorney has the knowledge, skills, and resources to ensure a delinquent parent does not get away with neglecting their legal responsibility to support your child’s needs.
Some parents flee California in hopes of moving to states with no child support laws, but they quickly discover they cannot escape their responsibilities by relocating. As you learned from the information outlined above, child support orders are enforced by the state and/or federal government regardless of where the delinquent parent lives.
Researchers conducted a study in 2019 to calculate the average child support payment required by each state and compare the differences among them. They developed a hypothetical scenario involving a family with a mother, father, and two minor children, aged 7 and 10 years old. Using data from Pew Research Center regarding parental incomes, researchers defined an annual income of $45,000 for the mother and $55,000 for the father. As the custodial parent, the hypothetical mother retained 65% of parenting time, the average timeshare awarded to mothers across the country. In their study, researchers followed the child support formula of each state to calculate the average payment a non-custodial father would make based on these amounts.
Using this hypothetical model, researchers discovered that child support payments can vary by more than $700 per month among different states. In fact, one parent may spend an incredible three times as much on support payments as another parent living in a state merely six hours away, even though their financial circumstances are similar. Researchers categorized the country into different regions and calculated the average monthly payments listed below:
In state-by-state rankings, Massachusetts ranks highest with the most expensive child support payments, averaging $1,187 per month. Virginia mandates the least support at $402 per month. Part of the Far West region, California ranks at number 33 with an average monthly payment of $566, which falls below the national average of $721 per month. Mississippi, North Dakota, and Texas only consider the father’s income when calculating child support amounts, resulting in an increase of approximately $100 compared to the other states.
Surprisingly, this research revealed that the difference in child support rates between states does not directly correlate with the cost of living in these states. Out of the five most expensive states in the US (California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York), only Hawaii ranks in the top ten states with the highest child support payments, and both Maryland and New Jersey rank in the bottom ten states with the lowest payments. The judge will consider a variety of factors when determining child support, but they focus on which parent has primary custody of the child and what percentage of time they spend with the child.
California’s child support guidelines implement a specific formula to determine the amount of a child support award based on the following factors:
The formula used for calculating child support awards is expressed as: C = I (HN – (H%) (DN)). In this formula, C equals the amount of the child support award, and I represents both parents’ total income allocated for child support. HN is the monthly disposable income available to the higher-earning parent, H% is the amount of parenting time the higher-earning parent spends with the child, and DN is the total monthly disposable income of both parents.
While this formula serves as a useful foundation for calculating child support, California law allows for deviations from the formula. These deviations reflect changing circumstances that require a higher or lower amount of support than that awarded based on the formula. Examples include a non-custodial parent whose support payment vastly exceeds the needs of the child due to their high income, or a child who develops special medical needs or other expenses. Family court may also order parents to cover daycare costs, uninsured medical costs, and educational expenses.
As mentioned above, child support determinations depend on the financial circumstances of the parents, and there is no universal figure that applies to every child. You can visit the California Child Support Services website and use their Child Support Guideline Calculator to obtain an estimated child support award based on the information presented in the previous section. However, this is not an exact figure. A child support attorney can calculate a precise amount using the state formula and considering any unusual circumstances in your case that could change the child support award.
If your ex-spouse has moved from California to a different state and ceased making their court-ordered child support payments, you do have options for legal recourse. Contact Paula D. Kleinman today to discuss your case and learn how we can assist you in enforcing court-ordered child support. We understand how important it is for your child to receive sufficient support as they grow, so we approach every case with dedication, compassion, and the utmost attention to detail. Even when delinquent parents cross state lines to avoid their duties, we utilize an extensive network of resources to pursue them and collect outstanding child support payments.
Schedule a consultation with us today by submitting the form on our website. Paula D. Kleinman will protect your rights, advocate aggressively on behalf of your child’s best interests, and secure the best possible outcome in your case.
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