Couples who decide to dissolve their marriage face several complicated and challenging legal issues but navigating child support tends to be one of the most difficult. If you are considering filing for divorce, you are likely concerned with how this change will impact your children and motivated to make the best decisions for their happiness and well-being.
Regardless of the status of your relationship, both you and your spouse will remain legally responsible for your child’s needs. These needs include food, housing, health care, education, and any other expenses involved in supplying an environment in which they can grow and thrive. Hiring the services of an experienced CA child support lawyer can help you understand your rights and obligations and facilitate civil, productive communication between you and your ex.
Learn more about child support orders in California by consulting the information below, then contact Khalaf Law Group to discuss your case. Our team of CA child support attorneys offers extensive experience, vast legal knowledge, and superior negotiation skills to guide you through every step of the process. With our experts in your corner, you can navigate this complicated situation as smoothly and painlessly as possible to reach the optimal outcome for your family.
How Is Child Support Calculated in California?
Child support orders in the state of California are determined based on a complex calculation that considers a number of factors, including both parents’ income, available tax deductions, the number of children you support, and the percentage of time you spend with your child. The court applies a formula established in the Statewide Child Support Guideline of the California Family Code to establish a minimum child support payment amount that is sufficient to provide for your child’s needs. They also consider the costs of providing your child with health care, education, and childcare, as well as accommodating any special needs your child may have that require additional expenses.
These guidelines establish the following underlying principles judges must adhere to when making a child support determination:
- The principal obligation of both parents is to provide adequate support to their minor children with regards to their unique situation and station in life.
- Both parents share responsibility for providing this support.
- The child support amounts calculated using these guidelines are presumed to be accurate and may only be reduced in the presence of extraordinary circumstances.
- Child support orders should be developed and enforced to ensure the children receive fair, prompt, and sufficient support to meet their needs with respect to the state’s high standard of living and prohibitive cost of raising children.
The child support formula is expressed as CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN)). CS equals the mandated child support amount for one child according to state guidelines. K stands for the combined total of income from both parents that can be allocated to child support, which depends on your income and the amount of parenting time the higher-earning parent contributes to their child. HN designates high net, or the net monthly disposable income of the higher-earning parent. H% is the estimated percentage of parenting time the higher-earning parent will be primarily responsible for contributing in comparison to the other parent. TN represents the combined total net monthly disposable income for both parents.
Your individual net income will be determined by calculating your gross income and then subtracting certain deductions. Gross income includes all income you receive, including sources such as salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, pensions, unemployment and disability benefits, workers’ compensation, pensions, royalties, annuities, dividends, income earned from a trust, rental property or business, and spousal support you receive from anyone who is not the parent of the child in question. This amount is subject to deductions for state and federal taxes, mandatory work-related expenses, health insurance premiums, the cost of raising children from other relationships, and financial misfortunates you have suffered including unusually expensive health care costs.
To calculate your monthly child support obligation, your net income is divided by twelve. In most cases, the greater the difference between the income of the parents and the lower the percentage of parenting time contributed by the higher-earning parent, the higher the child support amount the non-custodial parent will owe. The judge will also order both parents to provide add-on support for the following:
- Childcare costs needed to maintain employment
- Childcare costs needed to pursue education and training to maintain employment
- Uninsured health care costs for the child.
These add-ons are meant to be shared equally between both parents. However, the judge can approve an unequal allocation in specific cases, such as ordering a higher-earning parent to contribute more toward child care expenses so the lower-earning parent can work outside of the home.
Can I Modify a Child Support Order?
A family court judge is legally required to mandate the amount determined from the above formula unless you can provide compelling evidence for why this amount is inappropriate for meeting your child’s needs. Circumstances that may merit an increase or decrease in this amount include:
- The higher-earning parent’s income is so high that the child support amount would exceed the child’s needs.
- Both parents spend approximately equal time with the child and one parent uses a significantly higher or lower portion of their income to provide housing in comparison with the other parent.
- One of the parents is failing to contribute to their child’s needs with respect to the amount of parenting time they share.
- The child has special needs that require a larger child support amount, such as a mental or physical disability involving higher medical or educational expenses.
To request a modification of a child support order, you must petition the court for a new court order that reflects the updated terms. Typically, if you can provide evidence that the modification is necessary due to your financial situation and will still serve in the best interest of your child, you will not be forced to attend a court hearing for the judge to approve your request. If you and your ex are unable to reach an agreement regarding this modification, you will be expected to present your case before a judge. A CA child support attorney can inform you of the requirements for a modified support order, compile evidence to support your claim, and advocate on your behalf in court.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
Navigating the legal steps involved in creating a child support order can be a significant challenge. Thus, and doing so without legal counsel is rarely the best option, especially if the other parent already has an attorney. A CA child support attorney can help you through every stage of the process, beginning with explaining the state child support laws and how they impact your case, so you understand your rights and obligations. Your lawyer can gather and organize all the necessary documentation to prove your income and expenses, prepare for your child support hearing or other court proceedings, and create the strongest possible case to achieve a fair, reasonable support determination.
Failing to hire an attorney means you will be approaching a difficult case without the proper knowledge of all the legal statutes that apply to your case and their often-complicated interpretations. If you are the lower-earning custodial parent, this can result in securing a lower award than you need to raise your child. If you are the higher-earning parent, you may be ordered to pay an exorbitant monthly support amount beyond what your child needs—compromising your financial stability. Regardless of your income, retaining the services of an experienced CA child support lawyer ensures you have the best chance of avoiding a one-sided support order that benefits the other parent at your expense.
Resolve Your Child Support Issues Today
If you are considering filing for divorce and want to ensure you and your soon-to-be ex can successfully reach a fair child support agreement, contact Khalaf Law Group today. For nearly two decades, our CA child support lawyers have provided superior legal representation to divorcing clients, and we are committed to keeping the best interests of the children involved as our top priority. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated family law attorneys can inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities as a parent, help you calculate an estimated child support payment based on state guidelines, and guide you through every step of the process to deliver an optimal outcome for your case. We also offer mediation services to conduct civil negotiations between you and the other parent to reach a fair, respectful, and mutually beneficial resolution for your family.
Contact Khalaf Law Group today to schedule an initial consultation with our CA child support attorneys. We understand how difficult and painful divorce can be and will work diligently with you to navigate every aspect of your divorce and child support case. Whether you need help creating a child support order, modifying an existing order to reflect changing financial circumstances, or enforcing an order if your ex refuses to meet their parental obligations, we can ensure you the support you deserve.