Each parent is responsible for providing his or her child’s financial needs. If your child is not receiving support from the other parent or you believe that support needs to increase, Kaufman Steinberg’s child support attorneys can help. If you’re not the custodial parent and feel the child support you’re required to pay is beyond your means, we may be able to help you too. There are state guidelines spelling out how much a parent should pay, and guideline support is presumed to be correct. However, parties can agree to a different support amount, and sometimes courts order a different amount of support depending upon specific factors provided by California law.
Though both parents have an obligation to pay child support, payment cannot be enforced by a court until there’s a support order in place. Either parent can request a judge to create a child support order as part of:
- Divorce, legal separation or annulment (for married parents or those in a registered domestic partnership);
- A Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (for unmarried parents);
- A domestic violence restraining order (whether the parents are married or not); or
- A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (when there is a voluntary Declaration of Paternity or the parents are married and don’t want legal separation or a divorce).
California uses a formula (a "guideline") to determine how much child support each parent should pay. If the parties can’t agree on the support amounts, a judge will decide the right amount based on the guideline. The guideline calculation is based on many factors, including, but not limited to:
- How much the parents earn or are capable of earning;
- How much other income each parent receives;
- How many children the parties share;
- How much time each spends with the child (known as time share);
- Each parent’s tax filing status;
- How much support is paid for children from other relationships;
- Health insurance costs;
- Union dues;
- Mandatory retirement contributions;
- Voluntary 401k contributions;
- The cost of daycare and uninsured health-care costs; and
- Other factors.
A child support order can also require the parties to share the costs for:
- Child care so one parent can work or obtain training or schooling to develop or improve work skills;
- A child’s reasonable health care premium and uninsured costs;
- Traveling costs for visitation from one parent to another;
- A child’s educational needs; and
- Other special needs.
The guideline amount is presumed to be correct but a different order could be made in very limited situations. Child support payments are normally ordered until the child turns 18 (or 19 if the child is in high school full time, living at home and cannot support him or herself), and is proportional per child.
The court will determine time share (the time each parent spends with the child) by comparing the time that each parent has primary physical responsibility for the child. Generally, the court will count the number of hours or other portions of the day each parent spends with the child. Usually support payments decrease as time share increases, but that can depend upon other factors as well.
Either parent can request the court change the amount of child support. This usually happens when there’s a significant change in:
- His or her income;
- Tax filing status; or
- The amount of time that each parent spends with the child.
If such a request is made, a judge will make the decision based on current circumstances (mainly both parents' income and time-share with the child). Child support payments could increase or decrease. In some circumstances, if a party is self-employed or receives perquisites through his/her employer, a forensic accountant may be useful to assess a true and accurate cash flow available for support. This is common where one spouse believes the other spouse is “hiding money,” is unfamiliar with the other spouse’s income, or receives employment benefits.
If you have questions or concerns about a current child support order, or one that may be put in place in the future, contact the child support attorneys at Kaufman Steinberg today so you can talk to us about your situation, child support laws and how they might apply to you and your child.