Who Decides My Child Support?

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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 household expenses.

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 Family Law Advocacy Group. 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.

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