Whether you are in the midst of ending your marriage or merely considering it, whether you would be on the giving or receiving end of payments, one aspect of divorce that is frequently daunting and confusing for everyone is child support. With so many variables, it's difficult to know what to expect.
While differences exist in each situation, some frequently asked questions and their straightforward answers apply in most situations.
How do the courts determine child support?
At a minimum, the courts take into account issues such as:
- The number of children
- The income of each parent
- The amount of time each parent will have custody of the child
- Taxes, including the parents' filing status and tax-deductible expenses
What income is included in the calculation?
The court will consider income from all sources, as per the California Family Code. This typically includes earned employment income and any revenue from investments.
Is the parent who receives the support responsible for all the child's expenses?
No. Child support pays for basic living expenses such as housing and food. Parents usually divide the cost of other expenditures such as extracurricular activities; thus, these would be additional expenses on top of regular monthly support payments.
Is there a maximum limit on child support?
California does not have a cap on the amount of child support payments. Generally, whatever amount the calculation guidelines determine becomes the amount the court will order as payment. However, some exceptions exist. The cost of raising a child varies from family to family, with the law determining that a child's lifestyle should roughly equal that of the parents. In cases where one parent earns significantly more than the other, this could potentially mean that the lower-income parent's lifestyle improves considerably because of the support payments.
The law presumes that even if the custodial parent does not directly use the support payments for the child's expenses, the child will still benefit from a higher quality of living consistent with that of the higher earning parent. Part of caring for a child includes paying general living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, groceries and utility bills. The only exceptions include instances where the court decides that the calculated amount creates an excessive burden on the paying parent, which makes it unreasonable and unnecessary.
When will child support payments end?
In California, child support payments end at age 18 and your child graduates from high school. If he or she still attends high school full-time after turning 18, it ends on the first of when your child graduates or when your child turns 19.
What if my financial circumstances change?
Child support always remains subject to modification. Changes in financial circumstances for either parent could result in modification. Likewise, any permanent changes in custody arrangements that result in the child spending more or less time with either parent could be grounds for the courts to consider a modification to the current child support order.
How can I find out more specifics?
At first, figuring out child support can feel daunting. You want the best for your child, but the guidelines might seem overwhelming and confusing. An experienced family law attorney can help answer any questions, and will provide you with more in depth knowledge of how to calculate the support payments you will either be paying or receiving. A divorce lawyer with experience in child custody cases can also help address any concerns you may have in regards to parenting plans and custody arrangements.