The Law Offices of Stephen E. Penner
Family Law and Estate Planning in Santa Barbara County

Family Law: Child Custody and Support

 Experienced and Understanding

family law

Child Custody

Santa Barbara family law attorney Stephen E. Penner and his team have handled thousands of cases and have an in-depth understanding of how the courts approach custody arrangements. We encourage clients to communicate and draft custody agreements that are workable between both parents. A well-drafted agreement should consider the parents' jobs, the ages of the children, and the children's special needs and extracurricular activities. If parties are unable to collaborate on custody issues, the outcome of the case will be decided by a judge — a complete stranger to the children's needs. There are many different variations of child custody that may be negotiated based on a consideration of all the circumstances. A judge could designate different custody options without your control, including:

  1. Joint legal custody: This gives both parents authority to determine the children's educational opportunities, religious upbringing, and medical treatment.
  2. Joint physical custody: One parent is designated custodial, meaning the children live with him or her. The other parent is given visitation rights. The goal is for each parent to maintain a healthy relationship with the children.
  3. Sole legal custody: If one parent is found to be unfit, the other can be given complete decision-making authority over the children's educational opportunities, religious upbringing, and medical treatment.
  4. Sole physical custody: If one parent is found to be unfit, the other can be given complete physical custody of the children with possible supervised visitation for the other parent.


Child Support

Both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children.  In California, as in most other states, the court may order either parent or both parents to make regular child support payments that cover a child’s living and medical expenses.  Child support in California is determined by a set formula based on each parent's income and the amount of time parents spend with the children, as well as other factors.  Our law office has four decades of experience in helping one parent seek and receive child support payments from the other parent.  We regularly also assist those who want to make changes in existing child support orders.  Recognizing that everything changes with time, the law allows child support to be modified when a significant change in circumstances can be shown.

 The assistance with child support that our office can offer includes:

  1. Opening a case with the court in order to obtain court-ordered child support.
  2. Establishing legal parent-child relationships.
  3. Establishing paternity according to California’s child support laws.
  4. Finding an absent parent.
  5. Determining a parent’s “deemed income” (For purposes of ordering the amount of child support, the court will consider the income that a parent is capable of earning rather than the income that a parent is actually earning.).
  6. Obtaining child support and medical support orders and ensuring that such orders are enforced by the court.

Pursuant to California Family Code section 17522, if you are the custodial parent, California’s child support laws allow you to levy the non-custodial parent’s bank account if he/she is in arrears on court-ordered child support payments.  A bank levy directs the non-custodial parent’s bank to withdraw funds from his/her bank account, setting the monies aside until the court determines the amount overdue.

Non-custodial parents who fail to pay their court-ordered child support can have their professional licenses, driver’s license, and passports suspended or revoked.  California courts are also authorized to intercept their state and/or federal income tax refunds and place liens on their personal property. 

California law further assigns the foremost priority to garnishment for child support issues.  This means that if an employer has a court order to garnish wages for child support, any other garnishment can be put on hold.

If you are in need of legal assistance in establishing or negotiating child custody, or seeking or enforcing a child support order, our offices will be happy to assist you.