Couples going through a divorce in California are understandably concerned about the financial implications of living apart. This is particularly the case when there are minor children involved, and one party needs to make child support payments.
According to California law, both parents are equally financially responsible for the financial support of their children. Child support is not something that a parent can waive in a pre or post-nuptial agreement and failing to provide the required support could involve civil or criminal penalties. California’s child support guidelines are considered somewhat complex compared to other states, but this brief overview should give you a better idea of what you can expect.
California’s Child Support Guideline
The purpose of child support is to deliver the financial resources necessary to provide for a child’s needs and do what is in their best interests. According to California law, child support payments must generally continue until a child reaches the age of 18 AND has graduated from high school.
California uses support guidelines so that there can be minimal conflict among the parties and, hopefully, reduce the chance of litigation. The calculation is based on a complex formula that is laid out by state law and takes two factors into consideration – the income of the parents and timeshare. Timeshare is the amount of time that a child spends with one parent or another, where the parent with the most time with children generally collects child support from the other.
If you want to do the calculation by hand, it is: CS = K(HN-(H%)(TN)).
- CS represents the amount of monthly child support.
- K stands for the combined total of both parent’s income.
- HN is the monthly disposable income of the highest earning parent.
- H represents the percentage of time the parent who earns the most money spends with the child compared to the other parent.
- TN stands for the combined total of both parent’s disposable income.
The child support calculations in California are so complicated that nearly all lawyers and judges use a calculator or software program to figure out the obligation. A few examples of the tools used for these calculations include the DissoMaster, SupporTax, and X-Spouse. Some of the factors that one of these programs will use to determine a child support obligation include:
- Income earned by each parent
- Mortgage obligations, including property taxes and insurance
- Cost of health insurance
- Mandatory union dues
- Mandatory retirement contributions
- Number of children from the marriage
- Any children from prior marriages or other court-ordered support obligations
- Income from a new spouse if either parent remarries
- The amount of time that children spend with each parent
These are the most common factors that are considered in a calculation, but there may be other income or expenses that are included.
Deviations from the Guideline Amount
California law allows the courts to deviate from the child support guidelines under certain circumstances. When this happens, there must be a “good reason,” such as the fact that the guideline creates an unfair or inequitable situation. Some of the factors that could lead to one of these deviations include:
- A parent’s order of payment is extraordinarily high due to their income and would exceed the child’s needs.
- Both parents have equal time with the children, but one parent has to spend a higher percentage of their income on housing than the other.
- A parent is not contributing to the children’s needs at a level that is equitable with the parent’s visitation time.
- The children have special needs that require a higher monthly support figure.
Add-Ons to Child Support in California
In addition to an award for basic child support, the court has the option to order a parent to pay for other specified expenses that they feel are in the best interests of the child. These are divided between mandatory and discretionary add-ons. A mandatory add-on includes child care costs related to employment or some forms of education as well as some uninsured medical expenses. Discretionary add-ons include costs related to education, special needs, and travel expenses for visitation incurred by the custodial parent.
Speak with a Qualified California Child Support Attorney
Since there are many factors that go into a child support calculation, it’s vital that you have a skilled representative in your corner who can represent your financial interests as well as the best interests of your children. The experienced family law attorneys at Garmo & Garmo, LLP can help with your child support calculations and advocate for your rights throughout your divorce, custody, and financial support hearings. Contact our El Cajon office now at (619) 441-2500 or online to schedule a free consultation.