Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Summary of California Child Support & Paternity Law

Child Support Cliff Notes Allow Everyone to be on Same Playing Field
Riverside Lawyer, Sept. 2009, at 11 (with Natalie Metzger)

Opposing counsel had a surprise for me at the hearing.
Though we are good friends, he wouldn’t tell me what he
was up to and wanted to unveil his “surprise” at the hearing.
Finally, before the family law commissioner, he pulled
out a copy of the Child Support Attorney Sourcebook
and started arguing that “their own practice
guide” mandates that his client prevail. I guess his “surprise”
was that he had managed to get a copy of the book.

For a number of years, the Child Support Directors
Association (CSDA) has been publishing a number of
practice guides to assist those practicing in the area of
child support and related paternity law. In addition to the
Sourcebook, the CSDA publishes Cases of Interest to Child
Support Attorneys
and the Interstate Sourcebook.

Though these books have always been available for sale
to the public, the CSDA never really solicited the private
bar until recently. Last year, for example, while almost
500 copies were sold to the courts and family law facilitators,
only 53 were sold to the private bar. We are hoping
to increase that number and also to send a message that
these practice guides are readily available to the private
bar (and pro per litigants, for that matter).

I joined the CSDA’s publication committee in 2006 as a
contributing editor and have been serving in that capacity
since then. While the CSDA is a nonprofit organization
with a few paid staff, the publication committee operates
on a completely volunteer basis; i.e., neither I nor any of
my fellow editors get paid to work on these publications.

The Sourcebook, which I would call our flagship
publication, is a pocket book (small enough to fit inside a
jacket pocket or a small purse) designed as a quick reference
guide for use in court. Cases of Interest, on the other
hand, is meant to be a collection of case briefs that can (1)
quickly refresh your mind with the central holding of a
case, and (2) refer you to the citation and related authority
(including cases that have distinguished it and any splits
in authority). Finally, the Interstate Sourcebook is a collection
of case briefs and related authority from across
the nation dealing with the very specific area of interstate
enforcement of child support orders, including, but not
limited to, issues arising under the Uniform Interstate
Family Support Act (UIFSA). Like all reference guides,
these are all secondary sources designed to help refer you
to the primary source (case, statutory, or administrative
law) and its citation.

The reason I describe the Sourcebook as our flagship
publication is because it is the one that attorneys would
more likely use on a daily basis; in addition to its size, it is
designed to be a quick reference guide on all sources of law
dealing with child support. Especially for those just starting
to handle cases in this highly specialized area, it could
serve as an invaluable source. The book is divided into
16 major sections: Establishment and Civil Procedure in
IV D cases, Parentage, Support, Enforcement/Collections,
Relief from Judgment, Contempt/Criminal Enforcement,
Bankruptcy, Workers’ Compensation, Collections from
Estates and Trusts, Real Property Liens, Analyzing Tax
Returns, UIFSA and Registration of Foreign Orders,
Evidence, Objections, Miscellaneous Provisions, and
Internet Sources. Each section is divided into smaller sections
and fully indexed (including a “Table of Cases” and
“Table of Statutes”). Cases of Interest and the Interstate
are similarly organized.

In short, these books serve as an invaluable resource
for both experienced and novice practitioners of child support
(and paternity) law. They are also reasonably priced,
at $60 per publication and $20 for the 2009 Interstate
Sourcebook Supplement
. For more information about
these publications or to place an order, please visit www.

As to my friend and his “surprise,” he lost the case
because he committed a cardinal sin of legal research:
relying on an older version of the book, he failed to look at
the primary sources (case law and related statutes) governing
the set-aside of judgments. No matter how good the
publication, secondary sources are never a substitute for
the primary source.