How Does Child Support Work?

Child Support Impacts You and Your Child

During the early 2000’s, statistics reveal that nearly half of all marriages ended in a divorce. There are indications, though, that divorce rates are declining. If trends continue, some studies indicate that things are looking up with roughly just 1/3 of all  marriages likely to end up in a divorce. Certainly good news because divorce is difficult, not only for the divorcing parties but maybe even more so for the child or children involved. 

A divorce impacts the children in many ways - mentally, emotionally, and financially. Perhaps of all impacts, parents have the most control over the financial. As a good parent, people make it a high priority to ensure that the financial needs of their children are met even after a divorce. How well the divorcing couple works out child support could dictate how their children’s future could play out after the divorce.

What is Child Support?

Child support is the payment that a parent makes to the other, after the divorce, to represent his or her contribution to the cost of raising a child. It could, however, also be agreed upon by parents who were never married. Child support is intended to provide for a child’s basic needs and to allow the child to share in the standard of living of both parents.  

Who Pays Child Support?

Under normal circumstances, it is the non-custodial parent who pays the support to the parent who is living with and raising the child. A non-custodial parent is the parent who does not have physical custody of his or her child. He or she is required to pay a set amount each month to cover upkeep and care of the child.

In some instances, child support may likewise be stipulated in joint custody cases. For these, one parent normally has physical custody of the child for a larger percentage of the time, and the other parent will be required to pay child support payments.

How Is The Amount of Child Support Determined?

The calculation for the amount of individual child support payment takes into consideration the following:

-  Combined and individual incomes of both parents

-  Amount of custody time each parent is given or                     awarded

-  Extra or special needs of the child

-  Tax deductions that either parent may claim

This formula is applied not only for divorces but in paternity or domestic partnership cases as well.

This is stipulated in The Statewide Child Support Guideline that is found in the California Family Code Section 4050. The guideline was set for two major purposes - to provide for a minimum level of child support for a child; to provide for uniformity in the calculation of child support. California state law stipulates that judges follow this guideline. Deviations may be allowed but only in limited and very specific situations.

In addition to the above mentioned considerations, the following are also taken into account:

-    The number of children who would need support

-    Whether a parent gives child support to a child or children from another relationship

-    The child’s health insurance expenses

-    The parents’ mandatory retirement contributions and other job related expenses

-    Other relevant costs which may include health care, day care or travel

California Family Code Section 4053

There are principles that guide how courts award child support (As stated in California Family Code Section 4053). Among them:

-    “A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life

-    Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.

-    The guideline takes into account each parent's actual income and level of responsibility for the children

-    Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.

-    The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state's top priority.

-    Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.

-    It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children.

-    The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.

 -    The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline Formula.

-    Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state's high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.”

What are the add ons to the basic child support?

Using a prescribed formula, a basic child support guideline amount is determined. In addition to this, a parent may also be ordered to pay for specified expenses that would benefit a child:

-    Mandatory add-ons. This includes child care costs related to employment or to necessary training for employment skills for the parent who has custody and reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children

-    Discretionary add-ons. A judge may order a parent to contribute to 1) costs related to the educational or special needs of the children and 2) travel expenses for visitation (for the custodial parent).

Deviation from the Basic Child Support Amount

There are instances that a judge may award a lower or higher amount than the basic child support. Among the factors (Stipulated in California Family Code Section 4057). that would affect the decision are:

  • 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.

  • A parent is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that parent’s custodial time.

  • Both parents have substantially equal time with the children and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income used for housing than the other parent.

  • Application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate due to special circumstances in the particular case. For example, children with special medical or educational needs that would require support greater than the amount calculated through the formula.

Child support orders can be modified by the court if circumstances change; for example, if job loss occurs, disability occurs, etc.  

Divorce, under any circumstance, is never is easy. However, obtaining advice on financial matters such as alimony and child support could mean the difference between just surviving to truly thriving after divorce. At Kimberly Surber Divorce Planning, we help you take control of your life and your future.

Tags: child support, income, taxes, child care, health insurance, calculations, amount, child custody

Filed Under: Divorce Tips, child support

This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.

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