When a married couple with children decides to divorce, it is important to obtain a child support order as soon as possible. Finalizing a divorce can be a long process, and children need to be physically and financially cared for in the meantime. Fortunately, the child support process in California is designed to protect families by encouraging parents to provide for their children.
How Child Support Is Calculated in California
The amount of financial support a parent is obligated to provide will depend on several factors. To calculate child support, California uses a computer program to compute a complex mathematical formula based on the parents’ incomes, the time spent with each parent, and the needs of the child. However, parents can agree to a different amount of child support, as long as it does not place an undue hardship on the child. When parents do not agree on child support, the “guideline amount” will be ordered by the judge.
Child support determinations are made by mathematically weighing:
- The income (or earning capability) of each parent;
- The number of children the parents have together;
- The amount of time the child spends with each parent;
- Child support paid or received for children from other relationships;
- Health insurance premiums;
- Childcare costs; and
- Other factors such as mandatory union dues, retirement contribution, and certain kinds of interest and taxes.
If a spouse has no income, the court will typically enter a minimum wage income for him, rather than zero. If a parent is capable of making more than his current income but intentionally remains underemployed, the court may decide to base his child support contribution on his earning capability rather than actual earnings.
Establishing Child Support in California
A child support order can be obtained when you file for divorce, legal separation, a domestic violence restraining order, or other legal petition as needed. If the parents agree on the amount of child support that needs to be given, they can request an order without a formal hearing. Department of Child Services will review the agreement to ensure it is not detrimental to the child and will oversee the collection of child support.
If the parents do not come to terms for child support contributions, the custodial parent files a petition to establish child support. If you are on government assistance, the Department of Child Services may file the petition on your behalf. The judge will order child support based on the California guidelines. He may also take other factors into account to ensure the child support order is in the best interest of the child without placing an undue burden on either parent.
Modifying a Child Support Order
If you or your ex’s financial situations change significantly (by at least 10%), or if your child’s needs change for better or worse, you may be able to have your child support order modified to reflect these changes. You can also request a modification to your child support order at any time if you agreed to an amount lower than the guideline amount. If you need to have your child support increased or reduced due to a change in circumstances, reach out to an experienced family law attorney.
Orange County Child Support Lawyers
If you need help negotiating, establishing, or modifying child support obligations, the family law attorneys at R & S Law Group, LLP can help. Contact our office in Orange, California to request a free consultation.