How Is Child Support
Calculated in California?
The calculus for child support in California is somewhat complicated. It is driven primarily by parental incomes, tax benefits, and parenting time. Generally, the less time the parent earning the higher income spends with the child, the more that parent will have to pay in child support. The child custody agreement provides some of the information necessary to the calculus.
The numbers your child support lawyer and the court plug into the formula include the following:
- The gross income of each parent;
- Mandatory deductions from each parent’s income, such as health insurance premiums or union dues;
- The percentage of time spent with each parent;
- Tax benefits each parent can claim, such as mortgage interest or child tax deductions; and,
- Child care costs each parent incurs.
The law allows for consideration of other circumstances when determining the child support amount on a case-by-case basis. For example, the formulaic amount for a parent earning a high income may be far more than necessary for the child’s needs. On the other hand, the formulaic sum may be insufficient for a child with special medical needs.
How Can I Modify an Existing Order?
Either parent may ask the court to modify an existing child support arrangement due to certain circumstances that change the numbers originally plugged into the formula. For example, there could be a significant enough increase or decrease in a parent’s income or a change in the amount of time a parent now spends with the child. This could alter the calculation.
The current ordered sum must be paid until the court modifies and issues a new order. Failure to pay while the modification is being considered will put the paying parent in arrears and add interest penalties to what they owe.
When Does Child Support End?
Termination of child support occurs when the child turns 18 or 19 if the child is still in high school. If the child marries, dies, or is emancipated, child support ends. In all these cases, children could reasonably be expected to support themselves. As an exception, the court may order continued child support for adult children who are disabled and unable to support themselves.
How Can an Attorney Help?
With so many factors and a complex formula for determining child support, it would be wise to contact a family law attorney experienced with child support to help you navigate the process. Your attorney will be particularly beneficial when it comes to those considerations outside the formula that can have a significant impact on the final sum issued in the child support order.
Child custody and child support are highly emotional issues. Your attorney can be your advocate every step of the way, counseling with logic rather than emotion, in order to help you move forward.