Child Support Determination

How Child Support is Determined in California

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The Purpose of Child Support

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The purpose of child support is to make sure the child is adequately cared for from a financial perspective. Child support is almost completely determined through the use of a mathematic formula. There are many, many factors as subtle as the amount one parent pays for medical insurance for the child, to the amount of money a parent pays for property taxes, but the major factors in calculating support are the amount of time each parent has with the child, called “timeshare”, and each parent’s respective incomes. Again, there are other expenses that will affect the final numbers.

The goal of child support is to cover the child’s basic necessities of life. Unless a child support order specifically orders other types of additional child support, a basic child support order does not cover extracurricular activities or other types of personal expenditures. Uninsured medical expenses are a different category of child support covered by Family Law Code 4063, which almost always requires both parents to pay for these expenses, such as co-pays and meds to be shared equally by the parents.

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Child Support Calculators

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Be very careful, there are online calculators you can find through a simple internet search which can help compute child support numbers. But, those calculators are seldom correct, and the outcome can drastically change depending on the numbers you put into the front of the calculation. The actual child support formula is extremely complicated and not even the family law attorneys or even the judges necessarily know the exact ins and out, or every detail, of how the calculation works. We in the family law business, including Judges, rely on computer programs called DissoMaster and XSpouse to determine child support. Most of the online child support calculators use a similar formula but again, the numbers that are put into the program and the other numbers used can result in dramatically different child support calculations. Unlike spousal support, child support is not necessarily based on a standard of living or lifestyle of the child.

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The child support calculators help attorneys and judges determine how much child support should be paid by generating a “guideline” support amount. Judges will deviate from that guideline amount only in extremely rare circumstances since the law requires a judge to order the “guideline” amount unless there is a compelling reason not to.

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What if We Share 50/50 Custody? Will there Still Be a Child Support Order?

Given equal time by both parents, if one parent earns more than the other, it is likely the higher earning parent will still have to pay child some child support. An easier way to understand why a higher earning parent still has to pay child support even with equal timeshare can be seen with the following example. If one parent earns $2,000.00 per month before taxes and the other parent earns $8,000.00 per month, a child should be able to benefit from the combined $10,000.00 income of both parents. Accordingly, the higher earning parent will still need to pay some child support, albeit considerably less because of the 50/50 timeshare, to the lesser earning parent.

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Child support and “Extremely high wage earners”.

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We once had a case where the father earned approximately $1 Million per month. The Mother in that case was aware of the father’s income and expected to receive some extreme amount of money due to father’s extremely high monthly income. We warned all involved that this was not the case. In cases such as these, the actual cost of raising a child come into play, and obviously, the child will receive more as a means of sharing in the high standard of living for a child, but not at the level of the DissoMaster outcome. Programs like Dissomaster, Xpouse, and other child support calculators sometimes calculate a very significant amount of support due to an extremely high earning parent. In such cases, the judge may deviate from the guideline support amount by taking into consideration the general welfare of the child. The judge will not reduce an extremely high child support to the legally bare minimum but in these types of situations the judge will reduce the child support amount to something reasonable under all the circumstances in the individual case. For example, in our case where the father earned about $1 Million per month, the court ordered father to pay $10,000 per month in child support, considerably lower than the DissoMaster calculator projected, making our client very happy.

If you have any further questions, feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to provide a free consultation and discuss your particular issues and circumstances.

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If you are ready to hire an experienced and dedicated divorce and family law attorney in Orange County, California, call Pinkham & Associates now to speak to Doug Pinkham personally. Your initial consultation is free, and we will be happy to provide some free legal advice and help you determine whether we are indeed the right family law firm to represent you.