Today we had our hearing after DCSS at my request filed for a child support modification request last October. My ex husband who makes $150k a year was represented,since I'm on welfare, I was self represented. We share joint 50/50 physical custody. The DCSS lawyer never showed, therefore it was me against my former spouses attorney. The attorney convinced the judge to a zero support obligation. Up until October I owed him child support of 720 a week, but now that I'm unemployed, can't make those payments. The judge refused to make the now zero obligation retroactive. Therefore I owe him for the last 7 months. My question:
1. Since DCSS filed the modification at my request, did I have a right to a DCSS attorney being present at the hearing? If so, could that be grounds for appeal?
Had the DCSS attorney appeared, they would not have appeared on your behalf, i.e. to represent you. Failing to have legal representation is not grounds for an appeal. However, if you think the judge was in error by failing to make the order retroactive to the date you filed your request for the modification, I would suggest you consult with an appellate attorney. Have that attorney review your file, the documents filed in support of and opposition to your motion (if any), and the reporter's transcript from the hearing, to determine whether you have a basis for an appeal.
Unfortunately, in most cases support modification will only be retroactive to your date of filing. In order to preserve this date, you may wish to file your own motion to modify in the future, to ensure the earliest possible filing date, rather than relying on DCSS to file for you. In addition, there may be requests that you wish to make that DCSS is not willing to address on your behalf. That being said, in relation to the current order, you should ensure that the support figure is based upon accurate information, including income and timeshare, to confirm that a zero order is the most appropriate based on your current circumstances. You may also wish to review your orders, and your experience at your last hearing, with an attorney (directly, rather than on Avvo) to determine whether there are additional avenues of relief.
Best of luck to you.
Please be advised that this answer in no way constitutes legal advice, and is only intended to guide you in determining an appropriate direction for individualized legal consultation and/or representation. This answer should not be relied on, as each legal matter, and the appropriate course of action, is entirely dependent on the specific facts of your particular case. You are encouraged to seek the advice and guidance of a respected and experienced attorney practicing in your community to assist you. Please be advised that this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and these communications are neither privileged nor confidential.
The DCSS attorney works for the benefit of the child, not the parents. As stated earlier, you may want to have an attorney review the Court order and DissoMaster calculations to ensure no mistakes were made, e.g. visitation percentage, Father's tax write offs (such as mortgage interest, property taxes, etc.) . Visitation percentage is one of the biggest factors affecting the amount that is calculated for guideline child support.
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