During the divorce process, spouses will come face to face with difficult decisions that affect the outcome of their case— one of the major subjects being child support. This can be a very complex matter and should be handled with the utmost care.
We’ve put together this guide so that you can better understand California’s child support laws. With this knowledge and the help of an experienced attorney, you can make sure you are receiving or paying the appropriate amount of support.
California Child Support Guidelines
Under California law, all parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. The amount of child support determined by a judge is based on a state-wide guideline.
The Purpose of Child Support
As laid out in California Family Code 4053, examples of the fundamental principles the guideline teaches include:
Parents’ first and most important obligation is to support their minor children.
That obligation is mutual, based on each parent’s income and time with the child.
The child’s best interests are the number one priority.
California’s guidelines are designed to reduce conflict and lessen litigation.
California law presumes that the parent with the primary parenting time already contributes a significant portion of his or her resources to support the child. However, this presumption can be rebutted.
Determining Child Support
The guideline uses a complex formula to come up with the dollar amount for child support. California offers an online child support calculator to help parents get a general understanding of the amount related to their case.
To determine child support, you must have:
The number of children entitled to support
Gross income of each parent
The amount of parenting time each child spends with the parent
Tax deductions claimed by the parents, such as mortgage interest
Payroll deductions, such as health insurance, pensions, and union dues
Child care costs incurred by either parent
Deviations from the Guideline
In most circumstances, the amount determined by the formula in the guideline is the presumed amount of child support to be ordered. However, family courts may deviate from that standard if there is evidence that shows the formula is “unjust or inappropriate.”
A judge may decide to award child support higher or lower than the formulated amount if one of the following factors is met:
The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income, and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children.
One parent does not contribute to the needs of the children at a level that is proportional to that parent’s custodial time
Parenting time is equal, and one parent has a much higher or lower percentage of income used for housing than the other parent
The children have special medical or other needs that could require child support greater than the formula amount
For a list of the full list of factors that may cause a judge to deviate from the guidelines, click here.
Modifying and Ending Child Support Payments
Child support payments terminate when the child has turned 18 years old and has graduated from high school.
If there has been a significant change in circumstances, a parent may seek to modify the original order by decreasing or increasing the payment amount. Reasons to modify include:
Change in income (job loss or a promotion)
Severe illness or injury
Loss of a loved one
San Diego Child Support Attorneys
If you are about to begin the divorce or child support process, you should seek help from a family law attorney. At Embry Family Law P.C., we know that as a parent, your child is your first priority. To ensure that your unique needs are cared for, contact our child support attorneys today.
Call us at (619) 485-6476 to get started with a consultation with our child support attorney.