California law uses the “Guideline” formula to determine the amount of child support a parent may have to pay for each child. The Guideline formula is presumed to be correct. The two biggest variables in the formula are the parent’s income and parenting time with the children.
The parents have the right to agree to not use the “Guideline” formula and use their own figure for child support, including zero. But, these agreements must contain specific findings and could be barred if the supported party is receiving cash aid assistance. In cases where the custodial parent is receiving “cash aid” from the county, or at the parent’s request, the county’s Department of Child Support Services will pursue child support on that parent’s behalf.
A parent’s “income” can be a highly contested issue, especially in cases where a parent is self-employed or is paid bonuses. Income is a parent’s annual gross income from whatever source derived. This can include income from commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits (not SSI), and spousal support received from a party not a party to the child support proceeding. For self-employed parents, income is the gross receipts reduced by business operating expenditures. A court also has the authority to determine the “earning capacity” of a parent in lieu of their actual income. On the other hand, a party’s income does not include that derived from child support payments or any public assistance. A new mates income is also not use calculate the Guideline child support, but can be factor in determining a party’s tax liability (if joint taxes are filed with the new mate).
The court also has the authority to order “add-on” child support. The mandatory add-on costs include the cost of child care so either parent can work or go to school and uninsured healthcare costs of the child. Discretionary add-on costs include the transportation costs related to visitation and educational or other special needs expenses of the child.
Absent an agreement of the parents, or other limited circumstances, a parent’s child support duty normally terminates when the child reaches the age of 18 years old. If the child is 18 years old, but unmarried and still in high school, the parent’s duty to pay continues until the child completes 12th grade or reaches the age of 19, whichever is first. There are limited situations when the court can deviate from the Guideline formula is deciding child support.
If you have been served with child support papers, believe you are over paying or need to establish support against the other parent, do not hesitate and immediately contact Singer & Associates to set up a consultation with one of our Child Support Lawyers to better understand your situation.
Each case has unique facts and circumstances and this area of law is always changing. Readers are encouraged to seek independent legal advice regarding their individual situation and legal issues. Contact the Child Support Lawyers of Singer & Associate Law Office to set up a consultation.