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Child support in CA: Changes to law may help when parent lives abroad

Can a father living abroad be forced to pay child support? This case provides a novel approach to find an answer.

It is not uncommon for a parent to refuse to make child support payments. In 2017, over 5 million parents had failed to make support payments. This totaled an estimated $114 billion in unpaid funds.

Over 2 million families in California are part of this battle – fighting to get the funds they need to raise their children. Although never an easy legal issue, the problem can become even more complicated when one parent lives abroad. This piece will provide some basic information on how to navigate this type of issue.

A refresher: The basics of child support in California

Parents are financially responsible for their offspring. The court will hold a parent responsible until the child turns 18 and graduates high school, turns 19 or gets married, dies or otherwise removes the legal responsibility from the parent.

Generally, the court determines the amount of child support due by using the California Child Support Guidelines. The court takes each parent’s income into consideration when calculating the child support payment. This includes wages, pensions, dividends and other sources of income. The amount of time spent with the child is also a factor in the ultimate support payment determination.

The process can quickly become complicated. A recent case involving a parent living abroad provides an example.

A real-life example: Foreign father refuses to pay child support

In this case, the child and mother reside in California while the father lives in France. The father has refused to financially support the child. To receive the support necessary to raise her son, the mother has had to invoke the protections present within the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance.

As noted in a recent piece in the Sacramento Bee, the case is the first of its kind. The law went into effect in the United States in 2017. It led to a reciprocal relationship between the United States and 36 countries to allow for the collection of support from absent parents. This law now provides the ability for the mother to hold the father accountable in court in France. Before, she was unlikely to have such recourse. The case is ongoing.

Although the issue is not yet resolved, the case provides an example of a new avenue that may be available for parents in similar situations.

Take-away lesson: Tips for parents

The resolution of this case will provide valuable information for parents in similar situations. It also provides a reminder of the evolving nature of family law. It is a fluid area of law and changes can have a direct impact on your case. As such, any parent facing this type of issue is wise to seek legal counsel. This can better ensure all potential avenues for resolution of family law issue are explored.