Do You Have to Pay Child Support if You Have Joint Custody?

In situations where a California court orders sole physical custody, it makes sense that the non-custodial parent would pay the custodial parent child support. After all, the custodial parent independently takes care of more of the costs for food, shelter, and other necessities because the children live with them most of the time.

But what about when parents are ordered joint physical custody? In this case, they may each pay for things for their children, as time is split between parents. Will one of the parents still be required to make child support payments? Technically, yes. But really, it depends. The court will consider various factors when deciding whether to order child support and how much in a joint custody matter.

If you need help with child support or custody, please reach out to our Los Angeles team by calling Claery & Hammond, LLP at (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form today.

Understanding Joint Custody

Two different types of custody may be ordered in California: legal and physical. Legal custody concerns decision-making for children, whereas physical custody involves where the children live.

Each type of custody can be ordered as sole or joint. With sole legal custody, one parent makes the decisions about their child’s care and upbringing. With joint legal custody, both parents share this responsibility. Similarly, with sole physical custody, the children live with one parent most of the time (the custodial parent), and the other parent (the non-custodial parent) gets visitation. With joint physical custody, each parent has equal (or near equal) access to their children.

In some cases, a court might order that the parents have joint legal custody but not joint physical custody. The parents would each have decision-making responsibilities for their children, but the children would primarily live with one parent. In addition to getting visitation, the non-custodial parent would have to pay the custodial parent child support. This ensures that each parent fulfills their parental obligations to support their children financially and provide for the children’s basic needs.

Situations may exist where a court orders joint physical custody. The children would live with both parents. This might mean that the children spend equal amounts of time with each parent. However, a 50/50 split of time between parents is not always feasible, which means that one might spend more time with their children than the other.

Even though parents might have joint physical custody, they are still required to financially support their children. When joint physical custody is awarded, and one parent has greater access to their children than the other, the parent with less time may be ordered to pay child support. This helps ensure that costs are shared equally between the parents.

If parents are able to work out an arrangement where they can manage a 50/50 split of time with their children, one of the parents may still be required to pay some child support. Generally, the parent with the higher income will make payments to the lower-earning parent. This facilitates greater fairness when taking care of expenses such as insurance, childcare, food, shelter, clothing, and other needs.

How Child Support Is Decided in Joint Physical Custody Matters?

California courts refer to a formula when computing child support. However, they can deviate from the formula to decide on a figure for the parents’ specific circumstances.

In joint custody situations, one of the major factors in determining the child support amount is the amount of time the children spend with each parent. If access to the children isn’t equal, the parent who has less time with the children may be ordered to pay more in child support. That is because the other parent takes care of more of the costs because the children spend a greater amount of time with them.

If the parents have equal access to their children, the court may consider other factors when deciding on child support. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Each parent’s income
  • Each parent’s debts
  • Each parent's earning capacity
  • Public assistance received by either parent
  • The children’s educational and childcare needs
  • Special needs of a child

Schedule a Consultation with Our Firm

When it comes to child custody and child support, decisions must be made fairly. Challenges can arise when going through these matters because a lot must be considered. A family law attorney can help you through your case and work diligently to protect your rights.

To speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers at Claery & Hammond, LLP, please contact us at (310) 817-6904.