California has established support Guidelines to meet the needs of the children. The reasoning behind the guidelines is “to recognize the equal duty of both parents to contribute to the support of their children in proportion to their respective net incomes.” The Guidelines not only include monthly support payments, but also health insurance costs and necessary daycare costs.
Child support payments generally terminate when the child reaches the age of majority which is generally the child’s 19th birthday. However, under certain circumstances the child support order could terminate earlier or may be modified due to substantial changes in circumstances that includes a change in income or the needs of the child.
Calculating Child Support Under California Guidelines
Child support is calculated based on an individual’s actual income, but earning capacity may be used in certain circumstances. The income may be deducted for such items as the cost of health insurance for the minor child, other child support orders, retirement contributions, and certain other deductions as in accordance with the state’s child support guidelines. Child support is calculated according to a statewide formula and takes into account several factors, including but not limited to:
- The custodial timeshare between each parent;
- The gross pre-tax earnings of each parent;
- The tax filing status of each parent;
- The number of children;
- Support for child(ren) from other relationships;
- Mandatory union dues;
- Mandatory retirement contributions; and
- Specific Deductions (Healthcare Expenses, Mortgage Interest Expense, Hardship Deduction, and Property Tax Expense)
Child Support by Agreement
Under Family Code §4065(a), parents may stipulate to a child support order with permission of the Court. The stipulated agreement can order child support to be above or below the Guideline Support, but if the support is below the guidelines, the parties must declare the following before the Court approves the stipulated child support order:
- The parents are fully informed of their rights with regard to child support (Family Code §4065(a)(1));
- The parents agreed to the order without coercion or duress (Family Code §4065(a)(2));
- The agreement is in the child(ren)’s best interests (Family Code §4065(a)(3));
- The needs of the child(ren) will be adequately met (Family Code §4065(a)(4)); and
- No public assistance application is currently pending (Family Code §4065(a)(5)).
Modification of Child Support Order
In order to modify a child support order, a change of circumstances is required. A change of circumstances could include: change in timeshare, change in either party’s income, or change in other variables that would justify a modification of support order.
However, if parties have entered into a below guideline stipulated agreement regarding child support, no change of circumstances need to be demonstrated in order to modify the child support order to the guideline level (Family Code §4065(d)).
Additionally, a parent may never waive their right to child support as child support is for the benefit of the child(ren). Therefore, child support is always modifiable.
Mandatory Add-Ons to Child Support
In addition to guideline child support, the Court must order additional child support in certain circumstances such as:
- Childcare Costs: related to employment or reasonably necessary education or training for employment (Family Code §4062(a)(1)).
- Uninsured Health Costs: reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children (Family Code §4062(a)(2)).
A question that is often raised is whether a party’s new spouse income can be used to raise the amount of child support. There is a statutory bar against using a spouse’s income, however, if not doing so would result in extreme hardship to the child it could possible.
New-Mate Income: Generally, there is a statutory bar to looking at a new-mate’s income for support purposes. However, it might be possible in an extraordinary case where not doing so would result in extreme hardship to the child, In Re Marriage of Wood.
The Law Office of Paul A Lovrich can help to insure that the child support order is appropriate based on your unique situation or help if you are in need of a modification of current orders. If you need help with child support payments, contact child support attorney Paul Lovrich or call (408) 823-4554 for legal help.