Child Support

Child support is a monthly payment that parents make to help cover the costs of raising a child. Generally, the parent who cares for a child most of the time (called the custodial parent) tends to receive child support payments. This is because the law assumes that the custodial parent already spends money directly on the child. The parent with less parenting time (called the non-custodial parent) usually makes the payments, but a court can order both parents to pay child support.

Orange County  Child Support Lawyers of PWGGC

Typically, parents must pay child support until the child turns 18. There are some exceptions, however. By law in California, child support continues until the age of 19 if the child is still in high school and lives with a parent. The child support period is shorter, however, if the child marries or registers a domestic partnership, joins the military, or otherwise becomes self-supporting. On the other hand, parents could agree to support a child for a longer period of time or, if a child is unable to become self-supporting due to a disability, a court may order support for an adult child.

A parent who intends to avoid paying child support by refusing to work or working less rarely gets away with it. This is because a court can “impute” income, meaning, come up with an amount of income that this parent should be earning based on factors like employment history, education, and training. The state’s intent is to hold a deadbeat parent accountable to the family, and not punish the parent who stayed home with young children.

All California judges and courts follow the same guidelines when calculating child support. Because the guidelines/formula, as set forth in the Family Code, is so complicated, the court depends on a computer program (Dissomaster or X-spouse) to calculate monthly child support amounts. Although courts have the authority to deviate from the computer generated child support number (in either direction and/or in certain situations), they rarely do. Courts may also order additional child support payments, known as “add-ons”. A court will order one or both parents to provide for the child’s health care – including vision and dental – and to pay for child care needed for a parent’s employment, education, or training. The court also has discretion to order additional payment for the child’s education or special needs, and for a parent’s travel expenses for visitation.

Determination of the guideline child support amount takes into consideration many factors.  The formula is based on the parties’ relative custodial time-share with the child(ren) as well as both parents’ net disposable income. Net disposable income is the difference between gross income and what counts as deductions for child support purposes.

Gross income includes everything from salaries and commissions to unemployment, disability income, and social security benefits. Most other income sources (interest, dividends, rental income, partnership distributions, etc.) are also included as gross income. Because the computer programs consider state and federal taxes, gross numbers are used as inputs. The computer programs also provide for other deductions, including mandatory union dues and health insurance premiums.

In cases where the payor’s income varies, child support is often comprised of two components: a base monthly payment and a supplemental payment paid periodically when the payor’s income includes compensation (over and above a regular salary) paid on a periodic basis such as a bonus or commissions. This latter method is commonly referred to as the Ostler-Smith method.

Once a child support order is in place, it is not necessarily set in stone. If a child support order is below the guideline amount, a parent can ask for a change (called a modification) at any time. If the order is for an amount at or above the guideline, then either parent can still seek a modification, but there must be a change in circumstances (typically a change in financial or time-share circumstances). Some of the most common reasons for modifying support are (i) when a parent involuntarily loses a job; (ii) when there is a change in a parent’s income; or (iii) when there is a shift in the custodial time-sharing arrangement. Another good reason for changing a child support order is when the payor has a new baby from another relationship.

It is important to keep in mind that one parent’s lost job or new baby may not be the only change impacting the amount of child support. When one parent asks a court to modify a child support order, the court is required to consider both parents’ financial circumstances and the custodial time-share arrangement with the child(ren) at the then current time. This has the potential to mean that even though a parent’s income has decreased, that parent’s child support obligation may go up. An unexpected increase could occur when that parent’s time-share has gone down, or simply because the parent requesting a modification is unaware that the other parent also experienced a loss in income or perhaps lost the health benefits that had been covering the child.

Call 949-644-4007 to schedule an appointment with our office and find out how our child support lawyers can help you receive a fair child support determination.

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