The first step in understanding child support laws is to learn the primary purpose and intent of the laws in the first place. California Family Code 4053 covers child support issues. It clearly states that parents' most important obligation is to support their children. Based on financial ability and time spent with the child, they have a mutual obligation to achieve the child's best interest.
It also states a child should share in the standard of living of their parents and that child support might improve the custodial parent's standard of living due to the fact this would also improve the child's standard of living. It's not a big secret that living in California is very expensive, and child support orders must reflect this basic fact.
The Los Angeles family law courts presume that whichever parent has the primary duty of time with the child already contributes a significant amount of their resources to the child, but this is often debated in court proceedings. California provides child support guidelines in an effort to reduce conflict and lessen lengthy litigation.
Do the Los Angeles Family Law Courts have to follow California's child support guidelines? Not always, but the judge will need a valid legal reason, such as having admissible evidence showing the typical formula would be inappropriate in the case. What about past due child support, commonly known as “arrears.”
While child support arrears can't be waived, the parents could come to an agreement to less or more than California child support guidelines require. Quite simply, the one consistent and dominant factor in all child support decisions made by a judge is the child's best interest. Therefore, it's critical that you receive experienced advice from a divorce and family law attorney prior to any legal proceedings.
Child Support Amount Depends on Different Factors
As you will see below, California's child support calculator involves many different factors. However, the top factors are clearly the number of children needing support, the amount of parenting time for each parent, and of course, each parent's income. It's important to note these are not the only factors considered by the judge but is the main factors that will have the most impact on determining the final child support amount.
If you are considering a divorce and have child support issues that need to be determined, contact the Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky. Every case is unique and our lawyers will need to thoroughly review the specific details of your situation in order to determine the appropriate course of action.
Child Support Basics
If a parent fails to provide support to a child as required by California law, or if the parents are divorcing and child custody is at issue, a court can order a parent to make payments for the child's benefit, usually to the parent who has custody of the child. This court-ordered payment is referred to as child support. California courts will order child support considering the custodial parent, the financial means of the non-custodial parent, and the child's best interests.
After considering the relevant child support guidelines, the judge will issue a child support order, which is the legal requirement for the parent to pay child support. Child support is ongoing and will be required until the child reaches adulthood and, sometimes, even longer. When one spouse remarries in California, the remarriage does not directly impact any existing child support orders.
Child Support Steps
When the court is considering the extent of child support, the court will direct both parents to complete an Income and Expense Declaration. This will provide a general picture to the court of each parent's financial situation. The court can, and often will, investigate further into any unusual circumstances or to determine whether either party is hiding assets. In some cases, a subpoena may be needed.
Both parents may issue discovery requests against the other to do their own investigation into hidden assets. When the court is satisfied that it understands both parents' financial picture, it will issue its child support order. This order can be modified if either parent's situation changes and payments should be raised or lowered or the child reaches eighteen.
Child Support Guidelines
The following factors are considered when the judge sets the child support payment:
- Income of Each Parent. In setting child support, the court will review the income of each parent. The greater the income of the parent, the greater the child support payment from that parent is likely to be. Income includes standard wages, tips, commissions, and bonuses, but also less usual types such as self-employment income, interest payments, disability and worker's compensation benefits, social security payments, unemployment benefits, and even gambling winnings. It is also important to note that the court will presume that the custodial parent is already contributing more financially and may require a larger contribution from the non-custodial parent.
- Expenses of Each Parent. The court will consider the expenses of each parent. If a parent has expenses that are not optional, such as expenses related to work, then less money is available for child support. Expenses can include work-related expenses, financial support for other children, health insurance premiums, retirement contributions, union dues, and taxes.
- The Child's Needs. The court will consider the needs of the child. If the child has special needs, for instance, that require expensive medical treatment or care, the court will direct greater child support payments to cover that care. The court is also concerned with the child receiving a reasonable standard of living. The standard of living will depend on the child's location and living conditions before a divorce or a change in custody. However, if the child did not have a satisfactory standard of living before the divorce or change in custody, the court may order a greater child support payment to increase the standard of living.
It should be noted the Los Angeles County Family Court could order private schooling costs, but it's totally within their discretion. If your child had been attending private school, your chances are much greater than if you were asking for your child to go from a public school to a private one. In some cases, children have special needs that require them to attend a private or special school. Of course, the parent's financial ability to pay is a key factor in the court's decision. The Family Court also has the discretion to order a parent to make payments for extracurricular activities, but again, financial ability is a factor.
Modifying Child Support
After a child support order has been issued, it becomes enforceable by the court. However, a child support order can be modified if necessary. A court will consider modifying a child support order if a change in circumstance occurs that warrants modification. A change in circumstance can include changes in income between the parents, changes in expenses between the parents, a change in custody of the child, or a change in the financial needs of the child.
If any changes do occur, it is important to speak with our child support attorneys so that the child support order can be modified, as the court will not do it automatically. A child support order will terminate in California when a child attains the age of eighteen. However, if a child has special needs, the child support order can extend beyond the age of eighteen.
Contact our Los Angeles Child Support Attorneys
If you are seeking child support payments for your minor child or you are seeking to modify a child support order, it is important to speak with an experienced child support attorney at the law firm of Furman & Zavatsky. The child support guidelines in California are complex and are best considered with the help of an experienced child support attorney. Contact us at 818-528-3471. We need to closely review the specific details of your situation in order to develop an effective strategy.
Enforcement of Child Support Payments in Los Angeles County