Child support is an important element of family-related lawsuits, especially in the divorce or custody discussion. The amount a parent must pay for child support will depend on a number of factors, though. In today’s blog, we will discuss the various expenses factored into a child support calculation.
What Is Child Support?
In California, child support refers to the amount of money that a court can order one or both parents to pay every month for the expense of raising a child. The amount of child support will be determined by a judge based on a state-wide guideline. This may seem like a fairly straightforward process, though it is important to recall that most child support cases can be complex due to various other legal matters, such as establishing paternity or divorce.
Each parent is legally responsible for the financial support of their child in California. The court will make a final child support order based on both parents' income levels and the amount of time each person physically spends with the child. Note that a parent's legal support duty continues until the child:
- turns 18 years of age and has graduated from high school;
- turns 19 years old; or
- marries, dies, or is legally free in some way, such as joining the military.
Note that any child who is a full-time high school student or attends part-time due to a medical condition should continue to receive support. Additionally, the court can order both parents to continue support for a disabled adult child if that child cannot support themself.
What Is Factored into Child Support?
To determine the amount of child support each parent owes, the judge will assess their income through an Income and Expense Declaration form. Each parent is required to fill out the form honestly under penalty of perjury and provide proof of the amount of their income. From that form, the judge will calculate how much each parent is required to pay in support.
The judge will look at the "net disposable income" for each parent, which is the parent's income after:
- mandatory union dues;
- mandatory retirement contributions;
- health premiums;
- child or spousal support already being paid; and
- costs associated with raising children from another relationship.
The court will additionally look at all other sources of income such as money, tips, bonuses, commissions, overtime, property and:
- employment wages;
- self-employment earnings;
- unemployment benefits;
- disability and workers' compensation benefits;
- Social Security and pensions;
- dividends, stocks;
- interest earned on investments;
- rental property income;
- state lottery and prize winnings.
An important consideration by the court when determining support is how much time the parent spends with the child, called "time-share." The court will calculate the number of hours a parent physically spends with their child, and the less time a parent spends with a child, the more they may be ordered to pay in child support.
The expenses included in the monthly child support calculation when figuring out child support needs include:
- monetary support;
- health insurance;
- back payments;
- interest on back payments.
Monetary support includes food, clothing, housing, basic education, and other essentials for a child. Other expenses can be ordered by the judge or agreed to by the parents that could include childcare, unpaid medical bills, travel costs for visitation, and expenses for extracurricular activities like sports, lessons, field trips, and other school activities.
For an estimate on your potential contribution, California Child Support Services offers an online child support calculator. Some questions to expect to answer include:
- How many children do you have?
- What is the monthly net income of the non-custodial parent?
- What is the amount of monthly health insurance premiums paid by the non-custodial parent?
- What is the amount of monthly health insurance premiums paid by the custodial parent?
Enforcing Child Support
If an individual who is due child support is having difficulty collecting the support they are entitled to, it is important to discuss the situation with their Local Child Support Agency (LCSA). The LCSA can help enforce child support orders even if the non-custodial parent lives in a different state.
Some of the methods the LCSA may take to enforce a child support order include:
- wage garnishment;
- intercepting income tax returns, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, lottery winnings, and other forms of state aid;
- license suspension (hunting license, professional license, driver’s license);
- passport denials.
Questions? Let Claery & Hammond, LLP Help.
Child support is a court order addressing how parents can supply their child’s needs. The amount will vary depending on the expenses essential to the child’s daily life, as well as how much time the parent and child spend together. The primary thing to do in a child support case is fill out the Income and Expense Declaration form, where the court will determine the rest.
If you have questions about the amount of child support you are expected to pay, speak with an attorney at Claery & Hammond, LLP. We can discuss your case in a free case evaluation.