How Does Child Support Work in California?
When someone asks, “How does child support work in California?” the answer is not straightforward. Despite the relative simplicity of the question, it actually requires a fairly detailed and comprehensive response.
Goal of California Child Support Laws
California Family Code 4053 sets forth the goal and objective of child support laws in the state:
- A mother and father’s first and most important obligation is to support their child.
- That obligation is mutual, based on ability, each parent’s income and time with the child, all consistent with the child’s best interest.
- A child should share in the standard living of both parents.
- Child support may improve a custodial parent’s standard of living because that improves a child’s standard of living. That means child support also reduces the disparity of each parent’s standard of living.
- California is an expensive State to live in and child support orders reflect that.
- California law presumes the parent who has the primary parenting time already contributes a significant part of his or her resources for the child. This presumption can be rebutted.
- California’s child support guidelines are designed to reduce conflict and lessen litigation.
- What does all of this mean? It means the child’s best interest is California’s number one priority.
- Do California child support laws really work in the way the legislature intended?
- When the California legislature enacted and amended our child support laws, they intended to simplify the process. Did they inadvertently complicate it?
While California child support laws are designed to speed up and streamline the process, four issues often get in the way.
- Parents who frustrate or interfere with the other’s parent’s time with the children: This takes place in parental gatekeeping matters which can lead to parental alienation. A parent does this to artificially increase his or her own time and therefore increase child support.
- Parents who have little interest in spending quality time with their children but still seek parenting time they do not want or cannot handle: Why? To artificially decrease their child support exposure.
- Parents who refuse to become gainfully employed when they have the earning capacity, ability and opportunity: Remember, the obligation to support a child is a mutual one. It doesn’t just fall on the noncustodial parent. Unfortunately, most parents don’t realize this and think just because they are the higher income earner, all of the burden must fall on them.
- Parents who lie about their income, often claiming it is less than what it actually is, to pay less than what California child support laws require.
California Child Support Calculation Involves Multiple Factors
The three most common factors utilized when calculating the exact child support amount include:
- The number of children who are entitled to support.
- The amount of parenting time each parent has with the children.
- Each parent’s net disposable income although don’t let that confuse you because the computer program takes your gross income and determines the net monthly disposable for you. How does it do that? By making legal assumptions like your tax base. I realize you may be scratching your head on this but look at it this way – guideline child support is intended to simplify the process and that means the occasional shortcut.
The above are not the only factors. They are simply the ones that have the most impact on the child support number. If there is more than one child, the child support program makes an allocation of the support such that the youngest child receives the full amount of support for one child and then it is a downward adjustment for each additional child. The allocation is not important for your purposes because the computer program figures it out for you. Parents can agree and the Court can order a different allocation between the children.
Modifying a Child Support Order
To modify guideline child support, a “change of circumstances” must be established by the person seeking to change the support order. In other words, that parent must show that there has been a change in at least one person’s situation that would warrant a change in the order. Examples of changes include but are not limited to the following:
- A parent’s income has increased;
- One parent’s income has decreased (including a loss of job or disability);
- A parent’s net income (after tax income) has changed (including a different tax filing status, an increase or decrease in dependents, and modifications to tax deductions);
- A change in the visitation schedule that alters the amount of time each parent spends with the child, i.e. timeshare;
- A change in the visitation schedule that alters the cost of transportation. For example, one parent moves out of state;
- A parent applies for or stops receiving State Aid;
- The child’s expenses have changed (including childcare, education, and other add-on expenses);
- A change in the available health insurance to cover the child;
- One parent’s failure to comply with a seek work order or to obtain full-time employment commensurate with his or her earning capacity; and
- A parent has been incarcerated.
No matter what, a child support order cannot be modified without filing a Request for Order, Judicial Council form FL-300, as well as an Income and Expense Declaration, Judicial Council form FL-150. The request should specifically explain the type of child support order currently in effect.
Ready to Take Action? Contact Castro Law Offices Today
If you are considering filing for divorce, or have begun the process, then it is understandable if you have questions about what steps are necessary to ensure your divorce is recognized and finalized in a court of law. In addition to important questions, you may be feeling unsure about how to proceed and are concerned about the impact the divorce will have on your future. These feelings are understandable and are why it makes sense to retain a skilled Marin County divorce lawyer such as Jeremy Castro to help you during this difficult time. Jeremy Castro possesses the experience you need to handle an array of child support matters. Contact his office today so Jeremy can go to work for you.