Child Support

Child Support Lawyer Orange County

Child Support

Each parent is responsible for providing for their 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. When child support is either not agreed upon or court-ordered, child support enforcement proceedings must be filed, and child support orders then modified to reflect the child support that has been determined to be owed for your child(ren).

Starting a Child Support Order

When you speak with a family law attorney, they’ll want to know about your income, how much time each parent spends with your child(ren), what kind of expenses are involved in meeting the child’s needs (daycare, healthcare costs, etc.), and whether there are any special circumstances. To determine child support, your family law attorney will need information on how much income each parent receives. If you don’t receive regular income from employment, alimony payments received might be included in this calculation.

Child support orders are not based on the child’s wishes or who spent money on what when you lived together. The child’s best interests are always considered, but that doesn’t mean you can use child support payments to buy your child things they want. If the child needs something which costs more than child support payments, either parent may be ordered to contribute toward it, or both parents could agree to contribute equally. Your family law attorney will be able to tell you more about how child support works for children of all ages in California. Child support is intended to cover only the child(ren)’s needs and not their wants.

Though both parents have an obligation to pay child support, a court cannot enforce payment 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 a legal separation or 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 Factors that Guideline Calculation is Based On

  • 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 healthcare 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.

How Time Share Is Determined

The court will determine time share (the time each parent spends with the child) by comparing the time each parent has primary physical responsibility for the child. Generally, the court will count the number of hours or other portions of each parent’s day with the child. Usually, support payments decrease as time share increases, but that can depend on other factors. The child support calculator and the guideline tables both calculate this in seconds, which is then converted to hours.

If a custodial parent moves outside of California, the court can still make orders for child support. The parent with whom the child lives may receive child support even if they provide no support to the child. The non-custodial parent would be required to pay their share of expenses incurred by the custodial family, but only for school and medical purposes.

Either parent can request the court change the amount of child support. This usually happens when there’s a significant change in:

  • Their 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 decide 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 their 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.

How To Calculate Child Support

There are child support calculators available online, but they are not substitutes for having a child support attorney familiar with the child support guidelines. A child support attorney can review your specific case and know what child support amount would be required under the law. The child support calculator may not take into consideration any special expenses that you have for your child.

The child support calculator does not account for all the allowable deductions that can be taken to “cap” your family contribution. A family law attorney will know how to calculate family contribution and can help defend you in your family court case against an overzealous opponent. 

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.

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