California law requires both parents to support their child or children. The amount of child support a parent pays is based upon a complex mathematical formula. Usually the courts use a computer program to calculate child support. Some of the factors the courts consider are:
- Father’s gross monthly income
- Mother’s gross monthly income
- Number of children
- Location of the children if one parent is the primary caretaker
- Amount of time the parent with visitation rights actually spends with the children
- Interest and dividend income, or self-employment income
- Other incomes including undeclared gifts or cash
If a parent is not working, but is capable of working to earn money, the court may assign income to that parent based upon their ability to earn. The parent who claims that the other parent has the ability to earn or is “under-earning” must show the court what the other parent could be earning. The use of vocational evaluation experts can be helpful in this area.
In cases where one parent has periods of unemployment or fluctuating income, such as someone working in the entertainment field, the court will average the income over a period of time. In cases where one parent may receive a bonus or have occasional overtime, they can be ordered by the court to pay a percentage to the other parent if and when the bonus or overtime pay is received. Usually the court does not consider the income of a parent’s “new mate” unless not including it would create a hardship for the child.
The court has no discretion but to calculate and make an order for “guideline child support.” The court considers childcare, which is added to the guideline amount, and it is usually split equally between the parties. They also consider whether one parent, or both, is responsible for paying medical insurance premiums for the children. In addition, the court may consider other factors including such items as private school tuition, travel costs if the parents live in different cities, and other discretionary items.
The parents are free to make an agreement as to the amount of support one parent is to pay the other parent and, in most cases, the court will accept this agreement even if different from what the guidelines-based support would determine.
Child support is payable until a child reaches the age of 19, reaches the age of 18 and is no longer a full-time high school student, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated. The parties may agree on how to share the costs of college for a child, but a court has no jurisdiction to order a parent to contribute to a child’s college education. However, if the parties make an agreement regarding the matter, a court can enforce that agreement.
In addition to helping establish fair child support, Ronda A. Middleton assists clients with child support enforcement, modifications, and challenges. With all family law matters, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney about the specific facts in your case. Ronda is ready to protect your rights and best interests.
Experienced Child Support Attorney
It is important that the support you pay or receive accurately reflects the needs and circumstances of your individual situation. If you have been awarded child custody and need to establish child support, or you find yourself unable to pay the child support ordered because of unemployment, disability, or other reason, contact Ronda A. Middleton today.