Los Angeles Child Support Lawyer
Our divorce and family law lawyers have over 20 years of combined experience dealing with child support issues in family courts in Los Angeles. As a result, we know how the process works and how to ensure that relevant information is considered.
California Family Code 3900 is the statute that defines a parent's obligation to provide support to their minor children. The law is straightforward and says, “Subject to this division, the father and mother of a minor child have an equal responsibility to support their child in the manner suitable to the child's circumstances.”
Simply put, all minor children of the parents are owed a duty of support in a manner suitable to their circumstances, regardless of the current marital status of their parents. Until a child reaches the age of 18, both parents must support them, but it could be extended beyond 18 in certain circumstances.
Child support is a regular court-ordered payment that one parent must pay to the other. As noted, child support is justified because both parents are responsible for providing financial support for their children, whether or not they are married or want to have a close relationship with them.
Child support orders can significantly affect the lives of parents and children, as they can ensure that a parent can afford to cover the child's basic needs. Therefore, you must ensure that any child support order is fair.
Our experienced attorneys can review any child support order and negotiate with the other parent and the court to reach a fair decision. Let's examine this state law in more detail below.
State Formula to Determine Child Support
California Family Code 4050 – 4076 defines the statewide uniform guidelines. When determining child support, the California family courts use a mandatory formula under Family Code 4055 that considers the following information:
- Amount of both parents' income;
- Parenting time of each parent;
- High earner's net monthly disposable income;
- Number of children;
- Health insurance costs;
- Tax arrangements;
- Other discretionary factors.
A custodial parent who spends more time with the children tends to be the one to receive child support, though this can vary from case to case. For example, a significant income discrepancy (e.g., the custodial parent earns more than the non-custodial parent) can lead to a different arrangement.
The formula is designed to produce an award amount that reflects the parent's standard of living. Family Code 4053(f) says, “Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may, therefore, appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.”
The Statewide Uniform Guideline under Family Code 4053(j) says, “The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.”
Despite the language in the statutes, there is still a significant amount of litigation over the precise amount of available income for child support.
Our law firm uses all available discovery material to determine accurate information about the other parent's income and assets to ensure a proper support order. Notably, both parents will have access to the other's financial information during child support proceedings. Still, you will need a seasoned family law attorney to obtain all discovery material and financial resources.
Child support is calculated based on each parent's income and the time spent with their children. The California Child Support Services website provides a “guideline calculator” where you can estimate child support by entering your information. Another standard online tool used by family law lawyers is called the “Dissomaster.”
California Family Code 4057 (link) says, “(a) The amount of child support established by the formula provided in subdivision (a) of Section 4055 is presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be ordered.”
In other words, a court will order the guideline level of support unless there is good cause for ordering a different amount.
Does a Family Judge Have Any Discretion?
The resulting figure is presumed fair under the law when all relevant information is entered into the California child support calculator. While courts often stay close to the formula, family law judges have some discretion to alter the ordered amount of child support in justified circumstances.
One common situation in which a court may stray from the formula is when a judge believes that one parent is not working purposefully to avoid paying child support.
In this situation, the court can impute the amount of income it believes the parent should be earning to reach a fair determination. A court may also stray from the formula in cases involving one parent's extreme wealth to preserve the child's standard of living after a divorce.
Regardless of your circumstances, it is critical to have an attorney who understands California child support laws review any potential order, whether you are receiving or ordered to pay child support. In California, parents can't waive child support responsibility but can agree to a lesser amount.
An order that is too low can hinder the receiving parent's ability to support the child, while an order that is too high can cause the paying parent to have unnecessary financial struggles. If there is a contested child support hearing, you will be required to provide documentation about your income, including:
- Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150);
- tax returns;
- paystubs; and
- other relevant financial documents.
The court can grant temporary child support orders during a divorce proceeding.
Can Child Support Orders Be Modified?
Child support orders are not permanent. If you have had a change in circumstances or a change in custody, you have the option to seek a modification of child support.
We all know that financial circumstances can change, and a child support order that was once appropriate may no longer be fair.
In this case, one parent may want to seek a modification of the child support order from the court that issued the initial order. When one spouse remarries in California, the remarriage does not directly impact any existing child support orders.
To obtain a modification, you must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification or termination. Some examples of significant changes in circumstances include:
- Involuntary job loss or reduction in income of one parent;
- Significant increase in income of one parent;
- Changes in time-sharing and custody;
- Changes in the expenses of a child, including the discovery of special needs;
- One parent having additional children with a different partner;
- Incarceration or incapacitation of a parent.
We have experience in getting support reduced or increased, depending on the circumstances.
Get Legal Help from an Experienced Child Support Lawyer
Contact our dedicated Los Angeles divorce attorneys immediately if you have any child support matters in California family court.
Our attorneys will represent you throughout the legal process and protect your rights to a fair and appropriate child support determination under California law.
We can also help with family law matters, so call our office today for a free consultation.
Our Los Angeles divorce attorneys have years of experience dealing with these matters. Family law courts in Los Angeles can be complicated, but we can help you.