In any divorce where children are involved, child support is a very serious issue. Whether you are the parent paying or receiving child support, you want to ensure that your child will be provided for and receive all the support and benefits necessary for them to live a healthy and happy life. While the paying parent may feel like they get the raw end of the deal, it’s important to remember that this money is not for the benefit of your ex-spouse; it’s wholly for the benefit of your children.
Calculating California Child Support Obligations
In California, child support is calculated using a complex formula that takes into account a variety of factors including: the parents’ incomes (including mandatory deductions for health insurance, retirement, and union dues), the relative amount of time the child spends with each parent, child care costs, and tax deductions for things like mortgage interest. California has provided an online child support calculator that you can use to help estimate the amount of payments.
While the actual calculation is complex, the result is generally that the greater the differences are between the parents’ incomes and time spent with the child, the greater the child support obligation will be for the higher earning parent. As discussed below, however, there may be additional factors that the court takes into account when calculating the final child support obligation.
Deviations From the Standard Child Support Calculation
While the amount of child support calculated by the formula is presumed to be correct, there are situations where it is appropriate for the court to deviate from this number. Some of the reasons that may warrant an adjustment of the calculated child support payment include situations where:
· The paying parent has a very high income, and the calculated amount would be more than the needs of the children;
· The child’s physical custodian is not paying for the needs of the child in line with the amount of time spent with them;
· The parents share physical custody of the children, but one parent’s housing costs are much more or less than the other;
· The child has special needs, such as medical expenses, that the formula does not take into account.
Mandatory and Discretionary Child Support Add-Ons
In addition to the child support obligations discussed above, the court may order a parent to pay for additional expenses for the child. These so-called “add-on payments” are classified as either mandatory or discretionary. Mandatory add-ons include contributions for necessary childcare costs, and reasonable uninsured health care costs. The court may also order discretionary add-ons for things like educational costs, and travel expenses related to visitation.
Both parents generally share both mandatory and discretionary child support add-ons equally, unless it would be unfair to a lower earning parent. In such cases the higher earning parent will be obligated for child support add-ons in proportion to their income, which requires an additional calculation.
Child support hearings can be complicated, and it’s generally not advisable to try to handle them on your own. If you have specific questions about child support obligations in California, contact a knowledgeable child support attorney.