Child support in California allows the child a similar standard of living in each parent’s household. To accomplish this, California has established a standard formula which all courts are required to use in the calculation of “guideline” child support.
Because the courts are required to use the formula each time support is calculated, child support orders are consistent for families in similar financial circumstances.
There are many factors used in the California child support formula, which results in “guideline” child support, including (but by no means limited to) each parent’s gross income, the parenting schedule, federal and state tax obligations, and deductions, health insurance costs, and mandatory retirement savings contributions.
The courts and attorneys input these various factors into standardized computer programs, which then compute the “guideline” child support.
Leigh A. Kretzschmar has found, over the past 20 years of practice in this area, that her clients are most surprised by the fact that living expenses and debts are not included in the formula or to calculate child support.
This fact can cause great hardship for one or both parents; and, no matter how severe the consequences, the courts are not allowed to deviate from the guideline amount in order to consider these circumstances.
After the child support amount is calculated, it becomes part of a court order. In most cases, child support is paid through a wage assignment order.
This order directs the payor’s employer to deduct the support from his or her paycheck, send it to the California State Disbursement Unit, which distributes the funds to the receiving parent.
You may use the California Guideline Child Support Calculator to estimate support. However, by meeting with Leigh A. Kretzschmar, you will learn how to properly input each “guideline” formula factor and what you can do to help assure the best outcome for you.
What Leigh A. Kretzschmar Can Do For You
- Calculate your child support.
- Understand how child support is calculated.
- Answer your questions.
- Enforce child support orders.
- Update a child support order to reflect new circumstances.
Contact Leigh A. Kretzschmar by calling (619) 231-9323 or completing the Contact Form.
In-person Appointments: clients located within in San Diego, CA, La Mesa, CA, National City, CA, Chula Vista, CA, El Cajon, CA, Tierrasanta, CA, Santee, CA, Ramona, CA and surrounding areas.
Telephone appointments: clients outside of the County of San Diego, California.
Child support attorneys or family law attorneys, as they are commonly referred to, assist you in several vital areas of your case. These attorneys are experts in the fields of child custody, visitation, and child/spousal support; and, provide representation and guidance to assist you in this very difficult, and sometimes, contentious process. First and foremost, a family law attorney can assist you in obtaining a temporary child support order from the court to ensure the children are adequately taken care of during the negotiations or trial to finalize your divorce or custody matter. Or, if you were the primary breadwinner, the family law attorney can help make sure that you do not pay more than necessary. For example, if one parent has little to no income while maintaining care of the children while the other parent was the breadwinner, the children must be taken care of within the breadwinner's income. This type of situation is common with young children whose primary caretaker maintains the majority of custody after the breadwinner parent no longer resides in the home.
On the other hand, the primary breadwinner’s custodial rights need to be protected, and support needs to be properly determined, considering all of the relevant factors.
A family law attorney can also assist in the modification of an existing child support order to either decrease or increase the total amount of child support, depending on the context of the situation. Your attorney can file a child support modification request or motion. These modifications require certain predetermined factors to be included in the request/motion in order to be successful in the courts. For example, if you want to decrease your child support payment your legal representative will know the relevant evidence to present to the court, including when there is evidence that the other parent is making more money than reported, or that the parent is able to make more money than reported.
If you are not making less money than the basis of the prior child support order, you will need to prove that other child support factors changed significantly enough to lower your child support. There are other situations which arise, such as when the other parent hid income from the court or a child’s special circumstances.
These modification requests must be heard by a judge so your attorney can assist you in to collect and present the relevant evidence collection. While you may represent yourself in a child support modification claim, it is advisable for you to seek legal representation. A good family law attorney will know how to effectively argue your case and interact with the judge to give your case the best possible chance to succeed.
The judge’s priority when determining the total amount of child support is maintaining the child or children’s quality of life after the parents live in separate homes. For example, if custody is awarded to a parent who makes less money than the other parent, a child could be left in significant dire circumstances, which the judge will try to avoid. A judge will look at the combined monthly income of both parents and other factors to determine the total amount of child support that will need to be paid out every month.
If the parents’ combined income is $10,000 per month with about equal earnings for the parents, and equal parenting of the child, then little to no child support would be paid. However, if those same parents have very different parenting periods with the children, then the higher-earning parent will be responsible for a larger share of the child support payment. This is because the primary custodial parent bears more of the day-to-day costs of raising the child, such as gas for transportation, food, higher utilities, more clothing, etc. The child support rules are intended to stabilize the child’s financial situation and well-being.
Additionally, California has “mandatory add-ons” on top of the monthly child support. These add-ons include day-care and after-school care expenses for either parent’s employment or training for employment; and, medical/dental/orthodontic/mental health care expenses not covered by insurance.
Overall, the judge is looking to maintain the child or children’s quality of life and ensure that they are properly taken care of regardless of which parent is given custody of the children.
Once a child support order is handed down by the court, you must follow the order and payout what is owed regardless of whether you believe it was fair or not. In California, child support amounts are high and neither parent feels that the support amount is “fair.” You may contact an attorney to learn if the child support award was correctly calculated; and, if not, you may file to modify the child support amount.
If you are the paying parent, it is very important that you do not miss child support payments on purpose or payout less than what was ordered because there may be consequences such as interest, suspension of your driver’s license and the sweeping of you bank account. Missed payments can also affect your credit. You also do not want a judge to think that you are “taking the law into your hands” instead of following the orders. Actions like this can make it very difficult for you to be seriously considered if you do file a child support modification because your credibility is always important to a judge.
On the other hand, if your co-parent is ordered to pay child support to you and your child, be sure to keep a thorough accounting of cash payments you have received, and all missed payments from the other parent. This will assist you in court if you need the child support order legally enforced. Be sure to also keep track of day care and medical expenses not covered by insurance ordered to be reimbursed to you.
In the unfortunate circumstance in which your co-parent is not following the child support orders handed down by the court, the Family Court or the Department of Child Support Services will enforce the order. Your family law attorney will need to file a motion to enforce the order in court by claiming the amounts owed and not paid, and by asking for child support to be paid through a withdrawal of wages by the employer. The judge will also determine any interest owed on the missed payments and reimbursements.
If the court's enforcement of the child support order is insufficient to ensure that the other parent pays out their child support, further enforcement remedies are available. This comes about in the form of a contempt order in which the non-paying parent can be held criminally liable for their missed payments. The Department of Child Support Services has additional enforcement methods not available to the Family Court.
The non-paying parent will be given a certain amount of time to cover their missed payments and show a commitment to following the child support order or possibly receive more severe consequences. Your family law attorney will be able to inform you about the various enforcement remedies typically used in the San Diego area.
It is highly recommended that you secure the services of an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney before seeking out child support modification. While it is permissible for you to represent yourself in a child support modification proceeding, you do so taking the risk of what you do not know, and any surprises that arise during the hearing.
This is important because it may be impossible to change an order made in error due to your failure to present all of the relevant facts. A request to change a brand new order requires particular adherence to the law, collection of the relevant evidence, and accurate representation because the judge must follow its original ruling outside unless there is a legal reason to change it.
Because these motions are litigated in the courtroom, you are required to follow the law and all procedures, and to properly argue your case, even though you do not have an attorney. You must educate yourself about all procedures and laws relevant to your case because the judge is not allowed to give you legal advice, and certainly you cannot expect the other side to do so. To sufficiently represent yourself, you will have to commit to a huge amount of time to prepare for your case and may cut into your work schedule, parenting time and/or weekends. You should also consider the possibility of lost wages and increased stress during a very difficult time.
For the most part, child support payments are used to cover the costs of food, clothing, transportation, extra-curricular activities, and shelter incurred by the parent with primary custodial rights of the child or children. In rare cases, it is possible to receive child support to cover the costs of other expenses such as tutoring, or extracurricular activities such as sports or theater.
California adds onto monthly child support uninsured medical, dental, orthodontia and mental health care not covered by insurance. However, in a basic child support order, the extra-curricular, tutoring, private tuition, and other elective expenses will not be ordered by a judge. The parents may negotiate these expenses and set them forth in settlement agreement.
To determine the total amount of monthly child support that will need to be paid out, the court will use a state-mandated formula. This formula considers both parents’ monthly incomes, factors which lowers income taxes, and the amount of time the child is with each parent.
The total value of child support is different in every case depending on the monthly income of the parents involved in the case and other factors which are quite variable from case to case. Your family law attorney will take you through the specifics of the California statewide guideline child support calculation to help you understand the likely amount of child support applicable to your situation.
Every parent has an obligation to contribute towards the support of his or her children to the best of his or her ability. The obligation is fulfilled through direct support - when the child is in that parent’s care; and/or, child support paid to the parent with primary physical custody. However, several factors may complicate the situation if they are present.
For example, if both parents make about the same amount of money per month and equally share custody of the children then both parents will be financially responsible for the children during their time with custody and no child support payment from one to the other will be needed. In the case that one of those parents loses their job and their monthly income decreases significantly, that parent will need to ask the other parent for child support; and, if they cannot agree, file a motion with the court to determine the guideline child support amount.
Child support payments can be modified through a child support modification request filed in the court where the original child support order was handed down. This modification request can either decrease or increase the amount of child support owed every month depending on the context of the case. For example, if the income of the parent paying child support decreased, then a modification could lower their monthly child support payment.
The degree to which the payment will be modified is determined by the severity of the parent's change in income. A modification will be more impactful if a parent loses their job entirely than if their hours are cutback minimally, or on a short-term basis.
Modifications can also be used to increase child support payments but only if the court is given the necessary evidence to show a substantial increase in monthly income by the child support paying parent. Once again, the degree to which this modification will impact the total value of child support payments is determined by the value of the increase in monthly income for the liable parent.
Child support in California is not determined by fairness. Instead, judges are required to use a formula with mandatory factors. There are only a few, and very, very rare circumstances under which the judge may deviate from the formula.
An experienced family law attorney will be able to go over the formula as it applies to your circumstances, along with other factors which affect the outcome.