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Child Support in Louisiana
There are few issues more crucial and more contentious in divorce proceedings than child support. Because of this, you should consult and retain an experienced child support lawyer as soon as possible. Our family law attorneys are here to help ensure the amount is correct and fair, enforce the support order if necessary, and modify the order when circumstances change.
Both parents owe support to the child. However, the parent who has the majority of the custody will support the child directly. The other parent has to provide their fair share to the domiciliary parent. Even in cases where physical custody is on a 50/50 basis, the parent who earns more will likely owe child support to the other parent. The payor parent theoretically owes the child, but the decree orders the payor to pay the recipient parent.
Under La. Civ. Code art. 141, the court may order child support on an interim or permanent basis. Child support ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from school, whichever occurs later, but will not extend past 19 with few exceptions. If the child has a “developmental disability” and is a full-time student, support can continue until the child turns 22. Additionally, if a child has special needs such as a total mental or physical disability that renders him or her incapable of self-support, child support may continue indefinitely.
Calculation of Child Support
Louisiana uses the income shares approach which reflects the comparative ability of the parents to pay. The needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide support is what the judge will base a child support award on. The initial child support award is to be fixed on the basis of the principles set out in La. R.S. 9:315 et seq. These child support guidelines consider the incomes of the parents, the custody arrangement, and the number of children involved. Other factors may come into play such as the health of the child, cost of medical care, special needs, childcare costs, the “earning potential” of either parent if they are deemed to be under-employed, and any other factor the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.
These guidelines are presumptive, meaning the amount calculated by the formula is legally presumed to be correct. The guidelines are followed closely by the courts, but the courts may deviate from them if the parties agree, if the parties have a nontraditional custody arrangement, or if it is in the best interest of the child.
Child Support Enforcement
It is common for the payor parent to become delinquent on his or her child support obligations. When this happens they accumulate what we call “arrears” or past-due child support. Sometimes he or she may stop paying due to disagreements over added expenses such as private school tuition, summer camps, extracurricular activities, tutoring, sports uniforms and equipment, etc. Other times a parent may lose the ability to pay as much, but before a formal modification they still owe the same amount of support. In some instances, a parent may simply refuse to pay out of spite or denial. We will advocate for you and your children, helping to enforce an order that’s not being followed.
When most people think of child support enforcement they think of DSS or the district attorney’s office, however, private attorneys can enforce child support orders as well. We will work with you to identify any hidden assets or income that the payor parent may be concealing, and may file a wage garnishment if necessary.
Per La. Civ. Code art. 142, child support may be modified if the circumstances of the child or of either parent materially change and shall be terminated upon proof that it has become unnecessary. Since support is dependent upon the need of the recipient and the means of the payor, it is natural that support may be adjusted if there is a change of circumstance of one of the parties. A “material change” here is synonymous with substantial change. Child support will not be modified after every small raise in pay. Here, a material change may include losing a job, a change in careers, a debilitating injury or illness, a change in the custody arrangement, or even the birth of a new child. Further, it should be noted that if either the payor or recipient voluntarily change their circumstances to their detriment, that will not count as a material change of circumstances to justify a change in the child support award. Whether you are seeking to increase what is paid to you or decrease the amount you owe, our child support lawyers can help.
The family law attorneys at Bowes, Petkovich & Palmer, LLC have decades of experience in the New Orleans and surrounding areas at resolving child support matters. Call us today for a free consultation.
Bowes, Petkovich & Palmer, LLC
2550 Belle Chasse Highway
Gretna, LA 70053
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