Child support is defined as the amount of money that a court orders a parent, or both parents, to pay every month in support of a child’s living expenses. In general, the custodial parent (parent who cares for the child the majority of the time) will receive the child support payments. This means that the parent who has been awarded a greater share of custody will generally be the parent receiving the support payments. Child support payments will typically continue until the child turns 18, but may continue until the child turns 19 if the child continues to live at home and is still in high school. The period can be voluntarily extended if both parents agree or the court decides that the child requires support longer, in most cases as a result of disability. In more rare circumstances, marriage, self-support or emancipation could end support payments prior to the child turning 18.
How is Child Support Calculated?
In California, Child support is calculated using three main inputs: parenting time (known as timeshare), number of children, and each parent’s net disposable income. Timeshare represents a multiplier that will be used with your net disposable income and number of children to determine the monthly payment.
- Timeshare – This is the amount of time each parent carries primary responsibility for the child. This is not as straight forward as it may seem and the court has a lot of discretion to calculate the timeshare percentage. This percentage can be determined by who picks up the child from school/daycare if they are sick, who participates and brings them to extracurricular activities, and who pays the education costs.
- Net Disposable Income – The court will determine net disposable income of both parents by first determining each parent’s gross income for the previous 12 months. Each parent will need to show proof of this income and it should include all sources of income including:
- Salary and Wages
- Rental income
- Government benefits (disability, worker’s compensation, unemployment and social security)
After gross income has been determined, the court will make the following deductions to attain net disposable income:
- State and Federal Tax Obligations
- Mandatory Union Dues
- Necessary Job-related Expenses
- Health Insurance Premiums
- Hardships – defined as extraordinary expenses related to health crises, uninsured catastrophic losses, and basic living expenses attributed to children from other relationships
California child support laws and procedures are very complicated and should not be handled without consulting a Santa Barbara family law attorney first. Therefore it is imperative that you consult with a certified family law specialist at our law firm before making any decisions regarding your child support matters.
The laws in the state create a situation in which it would be highly advantageous for a parent to lie about their income in the hopes of receiving higher child support payments. The opposite is also true, in which a parent lies about their income to reduce the payments they make. Sadly, parents will also fight to gain more custody of their child for the same financial reasons, rather than doing what is best for the child. Because of these inherent conflicts of interest, the courts have laws to ensure the end result is the best for the children involved. The laws allow judges to impute, or assign income to a parent who seems to be attempting to avoid payments by becoming unemployed or underemployed. The opposite is also true, and a judge can reduce the calculated amount as they see fit.
Examples of situations in which the judge can adjust the child support payments include:
- One parent is not contributing at an appropriate level to the child’s needs based on the amount of time they spend with the child
- One parent has an extraordinarily high income that vastly exceeds the child’s needs
- The parents spend equal time with the children but one parent uses a much different percentage of their income on housing
- The children require special medical or other needs requiring greater support
Child support should be taken very seriously and it is important to be proactive about securing you and your child’s financial future. It is an unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless – parents will say or do just about anything to increase or decrease the child support payments they receive or pay, and the advantage lies with the first mover. If you foresee any troubles in your marriage, or have been waiting to begin the process to receive child support payments that are rightfully yours, please contact our office today. Santa Barbara family law attorney at our firm is experienced in California family law and are ready to help you through this difficult time.