Child/Spousal Support attorney Lake Charles

Child support and spousal support are two of the most contentious issues in any divorce or custody matter. Under Louisiana law, children should not financially suffer due to their parents’ desire to no longer be together, and support may be ordered from one parent to support the child’s needs. Spousal support, on the other hand, may be used to address an unfair financial advantage one spouse has during and after a divorce. 

A Lake Charles family law attorney at The Johnson Firm offers sound legal representation to help you seek fair support in your divorce and/or custody case, address unpaid support, or have a support order amended in Louisiana. 

How Is Child Support Determined in Louisiana? 

In Louisiana, child support is based on the state’s child support guidelines, which consider the number of children, income of each parent, and living, health care, and special expenses. 

Many other factors may also affect the basic child support obligation, including a child’s unique needs. An experienced family law lawyer in Lake Charles can help you understand how your support will be calculated. 

There are two child support calculations used in Louisiana. One is used when a parent has sole custody or joint custody with a primary custodial parent, and the other is used when there is shared custody with equal time. 

To calculate child support, the court will use: 

  • Each parent’s gross income
  • The amount of other spousal support or child support received
  • Childcare expenses
  • Health care premiums for the children
  • Children’s income, when applicable

Gross income used to determine child support includes: 

  • Pre-tax wages and salaries
  • Bonuses and commissions
  • Pensions
  • Retirement distributions
  • Dividends and interest
  • Capital gains
  • Disability and Social Security benefits
  • Rent payments received
  • Value of a company car, free housing, and other benefits

Each parent’s share of the total monthly income is determined and used to decide a basic child support obligation. Once a child support amount is determined, the non-custodial parent is ordered to make payments on behalf of the child based on their share of the total parental income. 

While the child support calculation is designed to be straightforward, disputes often arise. For example, one parent may not disclose certain assets or income, or one parent may not be actively earning income but has money from an inheritance. 

A child support attorney in Lake Charles, LA, helps accurately identify the income and assets of each spouse including in cases of voluntary underemployment, over-reporting business expenses, or otherwise shielding income. 

What Happens if a Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support? 

If child support isn’t paid, it can result in wage garnishment and other legal penalties. If you are a custodial parent and the other parent is not paying support, there are several legal avenues available. For example, Louisiana may employ the IRS to garnish tax refunds or garnish the non-custodial parent’s wages. 

Your Lake Charles child support attorney can help you pursue back-due child support through the court and understand your legal options for seeking the support you need. 

Can Child Support Be Modified in Louisiana? 

If you are struggling to pay the amount of child support that has been ordered, the court may have the amount changed. This will require showing a significant change in your circumstances. If one parent’s income increased or decreased significantly, you have lost your job, your ability to work has been harmed, your income has decreased, or even if the other parent has remarried, you may be able to have the order modified. 

The worst thing you can do is stop paying or reduce your child support payments on your own. Doing so means you can be held in contempt of court. This can result in your wages being garnished or your tax refunds withheld. Your driver’s license may even be revoked due to past-due child support. 

An experienced child support lawyer in Lake Charles, LA can help you seek a modification of your child support order with the court’s approval. 

What Spousal Support Is Available in Louisiana?

There are three types of spousal support a Louisiana judge may award: 

  • Interim support which is awarded during the divorce
  • Periodic support awarded post-divorce when a spouse needs help to achieve financial independence
  • Permanent support which is rarely awarded post-divorce and lasts indefinitely

Interim spousal support may be awarded during a divorce when one spouse is not ready to financially support themselves, mainly if the other spouse was working full-time or paying the household expenses. This type of support ends when the divorce is finalized. Still, it is sometimes extended up to six months post-divorce if a post-divorce support order isn’t awarded. 

The most common type of support awarded is periodic support. This type of support is awarded when a lower-earning spouse can become self-supporting financially but needs time and assistance to achieve it. This support may be awarded to a spouse who stayed home during the marriage, perhaps to raise children, and lost valuable work experience. 

Permanent spousal support is uncommon. It’s awarded to a spouse who needs financial support indefinitely after a divorce, usually due to advanced age or a disability that prevents them from working. 

When Is Spousal Support Ordered in Louisiana? 

When a lower-earning spouse wishes to receive support post-divorce, they must prove they are free from fault in the divorce, in need assistance and that the paying spouse can afford the support award. Only when the court agrees there is a need and ability to pay support will a judge evaluate the request for alimony. 

Spousal support can be limited if the receiving spouse is at fault for the divorce. A spouse who committed a felony or adultery may have difficulty receiving alimony. 

When the requesting spouse isn’t at fault, a judge considers many factors in determining an alimony amount: 

  • Earning capacity of each spouse
  • Income and means of each spouse
  • Financial obligations of each spouse, including child support
  • Custodial responsibilities and how they impact earning capacity
  • Length of a physical separation
  • How long a supporting spouse needs to acquire a job, training, or education
  • The age and health of both spouses
  • Tax consequences for each spouse
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Whether there is a history of domestic abuse. When the paying spouse committed domestic abuse against the other spouse, there is a presumption that spousal support is appropriate in Louisiana regardless of the other factors. 

Contact a Spousal and Child Support Attorney in Lake Charles, LA

Child support and spousal support are complicated areas of a divorce with a great deal of emotion attached. Child support may seem easy to determine on paper, but it’s not uncommon for spouses to hide assets and income, refuse to pay, or struggle to afford a court-ordered support amount. 

Spousal support is even more complicated with no straightforward legal guidelines. Because spousal support can depend heavily on allegations of abuse and infidelity, it’s crucial to seek the advice of an experienced alimony lawyer in Lake Charles.

Are you pursuing divorce that may involve child support or alimony orders? Contact The Johnson Firm today to schedule a consultation with a compassionate family law attorney who can help protect your interests and the financial security of your children. 

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