In any type of family law case – and especially in those involving
divorce – a great deal of attention is given to children. You may wonder
how and who will decide child support. The answer to “who”
is the judge, but the question of “how” is slightly more complicated.
The standard in family law courts is that the best interests of a child
must be considered prior to certain legal actions.
As part of the divorce process, courts will ensure that children will be
provided a safe and caring home, and that their financial needs will be
met. Child support is intended to provide food, clothing, medical care,
and the ability to get an education to children.Courts may order child
support to be paid by one or both parents until children reach the age
of 18, or 19 if they are still in high school, living at home, and cannot
support themselves.Every state has its own formula to determine how much
each parent will pay in child support, which you can find by entering
“(state name) child support calculator” into a search engine.
You can find
California Guideline Child Support Calculator here. Ultimately, a Court Commissioner or Family Law Judge will have the authority
to make a final determination about the amount of a child support order.
How is the Amount Decided?
The two most important factors a judge considers when determining child
support are how much the parents earn, and how much time each will spend
with their children as determined by the divorce settlement. Those aren’t
the only factors to consider; most states have a multitude of factors
to consider before settling on a final payment amount:
- The ages of the children.
- The needs of the children, including education, health insurance, daycare
(if applicable), etc.
- Deductions from paychecks, such as union dues.
- Irregular income such as incentives, bonuses, lump-sum payments like expected
severance packages, etc.
- If either parent is already paying alimony or child support from a previous marriage.
- If either parent is already receiving alimony or child support payments
from a previous marriage.
- If either parent has a new partner or spouse who is contributing to their
The definition of income may vary from state to state, and can include
gross income, net income, gifts received, overtime pay, bonuses, etc.
The judge may choose to factor investment income into their calculations
as well, depending on how much it contributes to their income.
Can Payments Be Altered Based On Other Factors?
If you and your spouse agree on a different payment plan, the judge may
consider that as an alternative. If either you or your spouse feel like
a different payment plan is more beneficial but the other doesn’t
agree, the party arguing for a change will need to bring it up with the
judge. If good enough reasons are provided, they may agree to an altered
plan. Factors that may be considered include:
- If the noncustodial parent’s income is so high that the guideline
amount covers far more than the children’s regular expenses, the
judge may accept a lower payment.
- If the noncustodial parent’s income is low enough that they have
trouble covering their own regular expenses, recently lost their job,
or has other expenses that make it difficult or impossible to cover the
proposed payment plan, the judge may accept a lower payment.
- If the children have special needs, whether they’re medical, educational,
psychological, etc., the judge may order higher payments to cover those expenses.
- If the children are involved in a musical program, sport, or other related
activity, the judge may order payment to help cover those expenses.
- If the judge determines that the noncustodial parent is attempting to avoid
paying more in child support by taking a low-paying job, especially if
their education and/or qualifications reflect a higher earning potential,
they may be ordered to pay child support based on their imputing income,
or what they could be earning.
Putting together a proposed budget for your altered payment plan, including
anticipated expenses, can help your argument.
If you have questions regarding child support payments and are seeking
legal support in Rancho Cucamonga to assist you in the court proceedings,
contact Aruna P. Rodrigo, Attorney at Law. Our firm is dedicated to helping
clients, and with our experience in divorce matters, we’re confident
in our ability to provide strong legal guidance.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a FREE case review.