Monday, December 30, 2013

My kid is 18 years old, why am I still paying child support?

You've been paying child support for years and years. 

You're child has now turned 18 and you run down to the courthouse to request a termination of support -- only to find it's not as easy as you thought it would be. 

But why?

There are several reasons why a parent may be on the hook to pay child support past age 18. 

  • If your child is still in high school (full time) your obligation continues until s/he graduates, becomes self supporting, or turns 19 y/o, whichever comes first. If you are paying by earnings assignment, make efforts to schedule a termination date so that you aren't paying long after your obligation has ended. The process to terminate a wage garnishment is slow and can result in a significant overpayment that quite frankly, is often times never paid back.
  • If you owe arrearages for unpaid child support, your obligation to pay those arrears will continue until and unless you have an agreement with the custodial parent and/or court order. Keep in mind that if your local Department of Child Support Services has been involved in your matter, they will also need to sign off/ approve any agreement with the payee parent. Unfortunately, there are certain circumstances wherein an agreement between the parents to wipeout arrearages, will not be honored by the court. Arrears can be financially debilitating -- there is no statute of limitations for collection, interest accrues at 10% (!), your credit can be severely impacted, and your wages, tax refund, bank accounts (etc) can be garnished. If you find yourself with a large arrearage balance, it is well worth your time to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney to determine whether there is a possibility of: (1) reducing and setting your monthly arrears payment; (2) eliminating interest accrual; (3) reducing the total amount of arrearages owed; and (4) mitigating unwarranted penalties (suspension of driver's license, sanctions etc).
  • If your adult child is disabled, you may be on the hook for child support long after your kid turns 18. Under Family Code section 3910, parents have an equal responsibility to provide support for their adult child if s/he is incapacitated from earning a living and is without sufficient means for support. A child is incapacitated from earning a living if s/he is unable to support herself because of a mental or physical disability. The problem is -- there isn't a whole lot of case or statutory law guiding the court on this issue. Judges have a lot of discretion in determining the amount of support (usually guideline unless unjust or inappropriate) and whether or not the child meets the legal qualification. So, for example, is an autistic child with a part-time job (and a job coach) incapacitated from earning a living? What about a service member that returns from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? How about a child addicted to drugs and in and out of rehabilitation? Even a child that receives social security or other financial support will likely be entitled to support if s/he meets the FC 3910 requirements. An experienced attorney can help you and your family navigate the system, negotiate a settlement (when appropriate), and litigate your matter (assuming it makes financial sense).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sophia Wood Henderson: An all-star addition to the LLG team

At Levine Law Group, the success of each case we handle is dependent on the ability of our team to work efficiently, collaboratively and strategically. We work to produce the best possible work product because in law, a single mistake can lead to a huge loss. Sophia has been the perfect addition to this puzzle. Her keen attention to detail, combined with her excellent follow through and professional yet empathetic client contact -- compliment Ashley's ability to simplify complex legal problems and Erin's strong litigation technique. 

After attaining her Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley, Sophia spent a summer studying Law in Colorado, completing legal research on the Yugoslavian war crimes against humanity for the defense on a case pending before the Hague. She later received her law degree from the University of San Francisco where she graduated with honors and obtained a Public Interest Law Certificate and a CALI "Excellence for the Future Award."

Sophia began her legal career as a law clerk with Justice Now, Bay Area Legal Aid, a private family law firm, the JusticeBus program and San Francisco Superior Court. While at Justice Now, her interest peaked in prisoner's rights and she published a law review article "Prisons as a Tool of Reproductive Oppression" in the Stanford Law Review. She also gained valuable experience in child custody matters and representing clients with complex mental health issues. 

Since graduating law school, Sophia has dedicated her practice of law fully to family law. She obtained employment with a small family law firm in San Francisco and San Mateo where she improved her advocacy, legal research and writing skills. 

Since joining the Levine Law Group, she has quickly risen from a part-time paralegal position, to an associate attorney -- partially due to pressure from client's to spend more time working with her and also because of her passion and dedication to family law. She has quickly become key to the LGBT aspect of the practice, assisting heavily with Donor / Assisted Reproduction Agreements, Second Parent Adoptions, Cohabitation Agreements, Marvin actions, Pre/Post-Nuptial and Transmutation Agreements. 

In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, musical sing-a-longs, fun runs, traveling, taking her cat to Dolores Park, and pretending she lives in warmer weather. 

We are beyond excited to welcome Sophia and are confident she is a rising star in the Bay Area legal arena.