Experienced Child Support Attorney
California Law Firm Specializing in Child Support
Child support is usually paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to contribute to the cost of raising a child in California. The “custodial parent” is the parent that the child resides with the majority of the time.
The California Family Code provides that every child has the right to be financially supported by both parents, and parents share an equal responsibility to support their children (Cal Fam. Code § 3900).
The amount of child support in the State of California is determined by California Family Code 4055, which provides Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Determining Child Support. This guideline formula takes into consideration such things as gross income, payroll deductions, and taxes when determining the amount of child support that one parent should pay another for the support of a given child.
However, the formula can be complicated by other factors such as child support one parent pays a third party for the support of children from a previous relationship, the value of a closely held business, the amount of spousal support one party pays, or the value of a high asset estate.
See 3 Secrets to Proving Self-Employed Income of a Spouse or Parent for more information.
Often, parents contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for assistance enforcing child support orders. DCSS may also become involved in a child support matter as a ‘substitute payee’ of child support when either parent applies for financial public assistance (e.g. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)). If one parent is receiving any type of public assistance, the local child support agency must agree to and sign any child support agreement reached between parties.
Child support is an issue arising in nearly all family law matters involving children. For this reason, it is important to have a skilled advocate on your side to help you understand the family law process in your underlying case.
Child support issues may arise in any family law matter involving child custody, including, but not limited to, the following:
While the court ultimately decides the child support amount in each case individually, a knowledgeable family attorney is able to calculate a reasonable estimate of the amount of child support that may be ordered in your case by using the California Guideline Child Support Calculator.
Factors Family Courts Consider in Calculating Child Support – California Family Code 4055
If the parents cannot agree on the amount of child support, the court will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation (Cal Fam. Code § 4052). Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Determining Child Support takes into account the following factors:
- The actual monthly income of each parent (in certain situations, the income a parent has the ability and opportunity to earn may be considered);
- The tax filing status of each parent;
- The number of children these parents have together;
- The amount of parenting time each parent has with these children (visitation timeshare per current order or custody agreement);
- Court-ordered child support paid for the benefit of children from other relationships;
- Health insurance premiums paid by either or both parties;
- Mandatory retirement contributions by either or both parties;
- Mandatory union dues paid by either or both parties;
- The cost of daycare and uninsured health-care costs.
Deviation from Guideline Child Support in California
While the circumstances that may trigger the family court to ‘deviate’ from the guideline calculation are very limited, Family Code 4056 and 4057 provide statutory authority for the court to order an amount of child support inconsistent with the presumably correct guideline child support calculation.
Factors the Court Considers to Deviate from California Guideline Child Support Calculation – Family Code 4056
(a) To comply with federal law, the court shall state, in writing or on the record, the following information whenever the court is ordering an amount for support that differs from the statewide uniform guideline formula amount under this article:
(1) The amount of support that would have been ordered under the guideline formula.
(2) The reasons the amount of support ordered differs from the guideline formula amount.
(3) The reasons the amount of support ordered is consistent with the best interests of the children.
(b) At the request of any party, the court shall state in writing or on the record the following information used in determining the guideline amount under this article:
(1) The net monthly disposable income of each parent.
(2) The actual federal income tax filing status of each parent (for example, single, married, married filing separately, or head of household and number of exemptions).
(3) Deductions from gross income for each parent.
(4) The approximate percentage of time pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 4055 that each parent has primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent.
Rebuttable Presumption that California Guideline Child Support is Correct
According to Family Code 4057 (a), the amount of child support established by the formula provided in subdivision (a) of Section 4055 is presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be ordered in any given case.
How To Prove Guideline Child Support is Unjust or Inappropriate – Family Code 4057 (b)
(b) The presumption of subdivision (a) is a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof and may be rebutted by admissible evidence showing that application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate in the particular case, consistent with the principles set forth in Section 4053, because one or more of the following factors is found to be applicable by a preponderance of the evidence, and the court states in writing or on the record the information required in subdivision (a) of Section 4056:
(1) The parties have stipulated to a different amount of child support under subdivision (a) of Section 4065.
(2) The sale of the family residence is deferred pursuant to Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 3800) of Part 1 and the rental value of the family residence where the children reside exceeds the mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes. The amount of any adjustment pursuant to this paragraph shall not be greater than the excess amount.
(3) 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.
(4) A party is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that party’s custodial time.
(5) Application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate due to special circumstances in the particular case. These special circumstances include, but are not limited to, the following:
(A) Cases in which the parents have different time-sharing arrangements for different children.
(B) Cases in which both parents have substantially equal time-sharing of the children and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income used for housing than the other parent.
(C) Cases in which the children have special medical or other needs that could require child support that would be greater than the formula amount.
(D) Cases in which a child is found to have more than two parents.
Child Support Modification Attorney in California
After a child support order has been made, it is sometimes necessary to make changes to the original order at a later date. One parents’ continued dissatisfaction with the amount of the support order is not a reason to modify the order, but valid reasons for requesting a modification may include:
- A significant change in the visitation timeshare due to a modification of child custody;
- A significant change in the income of one or both parents;
- A change in employment of one of the parents resulting in a significant change in the relevant guideline deductions (i.e. health insurance premiums, mandatory retirement, union dues, etc.)
As a general rule, child support obligations do not go away, increase, or decrease, until one parent initiates action in court or with the State’s child support agency for modification or termination of child support. The exception to this general rule arises when the minor child is adopted by a third party (like a step-parent) and the obligor parent’s parental rights are terminated by the court.
Otherwise, if some change in the obligor parent’s income renders the child support amount unduly burdensome, a modification request is the proper remedy for an inability to pay rather than letting arrears accrue. Failure to make child support payments as ordered may be grounds for the receiving parent to bring contempt proceedings, as child support orders are generally enforceable by contempt.
Contact Our Experienced California Child Support Attorneys Now
Parents can rely on the experience of our child support attorneys in obtaining child support orders, agreements, and modifications. Our Southern California family law firm fights hard to make the legal system work for our clients.
Our attorneys have litigated child support cases throughout the State of California, including Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. Call Talkov Law at (951) 888-3300 or contact us online for a free consultation about your case. Learn how our experienced child support attorney, Colleen Sparks, can guide you through the court process in a prompt and clear manner.