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How to Collect Child Support

Child support is for the Children!

Jessica St. Clair, MS, MFT

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It seems obvious that even though parents choose to stop living together, the child's financial needs do not cease. Child support is society's way of organizing the financial contribution of both parents. If parents can not agree on a plan, then a predetermined equation is used by the Court to establish an amount of money one parent gives the other for their child's well being.

More families fight about child support than not. One parent usually thinks he or she is "paying" tooo much and the other thinks he or she is not getting enough. It is true that sometimes both of these statements accurately describe some pretty difficult and "unfair" situations. It is also true that the kids always lose in these arguments.

Court battles based solely on money have ruinous consequences. I experience first hand how parents' money disputes effect children. I see the tears of financial abandonment and parental estrangement due to another parents retribution for non-payment. Some parents fight about who should pay how much and who should go to work. Seldom is the question raised: Who should stay home with the children? Little consideration is given to the worth of the stay at home parent. Few times is the arrangement made for the children based on what these two parents might have done for their children if still married. For example, expenditures including extra-curricular activities, sports, school costs, summer camp, driving and college must be considered.

Others fight about money through custody disagreements. Some custody evaluations are for the veiled purpose of obtaining the maximum child custody in order to avoid or reduce child support payments. What's best for the child is not the paramount issue.

It seems for some that the decision to leave their spouse means freedom from financial responsibility to their children. Our culture, unfortunately, tolerates this point of view. Many of us honor our parental duties and raise our children with the money we earn. However a large group hides from moral responsibilities, feigning unemployment or under-reporting income. Others refuse to pay, move away, or deny paternity. Granted, there are those who receive child support and misappropriate the funds or commit other unacceptable behaviors concerning money and visitation for their children.

Here is a guide for collecting child support in California. It is not meant to be legal advice.

  1. When you and your spouse separate, legalize it and establish child support amounts. Time after time, one parent leaves and the other just hopes that the money will continue to come in. Many parents shy away from making a separation formal for fear it might spell doom to the marriage. Weigh that against the importance of protecting your children financially.

  2. If your spouse shows any sign of being delinquent, have the payments made directly through the District Attorney's (D.A.'s) office. Not only will this be an accounting of contributions, but if payment is not made, the D.A. will assist in collection. This service is free. Note: The D.A. cannot collect unspecified costs. For example, "half the medical costs" is not a specific cost.

  3. If there are changes in income or circumstances, request an adjustment of child support amounts. This can be done annually through the D.A.'s office.

  4. Stay out of Court, if possible. If a parent does not comply with a child support order, the cost of collecting support through the Court considerably erodes the amount of back support due. Use the D.A. to help regulate these problems.

  5. Consult an attorney for more information about child support. We may be able to refer you to an appropriate attorney in your area.

Remember, child support is IN THE CHILD'S BEST INTEREST! We all must do what we can to assure our children have the best we can offer.

Jessica St. Clair, MS, MFT, is a Marriage, Family and Child Counselor with over thirty years experience working with families and children. She is a therapist, credentialed teacher and qualified child custody evaluator. Jessica has worked with hundreds of families to prepare them for custody evaluations as ordered by the Court. Jessica is a woman of great empathy and has helped many children cope with the turmoil divorce creates in their lives. Jessica practices in Newport Beach and Santa Ana, Ca. She is the leader of Planet Divorce and Parenting Wizards, both joint projects of Divorce Wizards, Inc. and Child Custody Consultants. You may reach Jessica St. Clair at 714-568-1111 or

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