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how child support is determined

You reached the point where you know you need help from the other parent, but what is best for the children? Experts like Isolina Ricci, PhD will tell you that living in an environment without all the fighting and controversy is best for the children, even if it is in two houses. In her book Mom’s House, Dad’s House Dr. Ricci describes the value of recognizing two homes for the family to occupy. In California, when a child spends more than half their time at one house, the court usually awards that parent child support. Child support is the money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay every month to assist in paying the child’s or children’s living expenses. Child support orders can be straight forward or complex. Hittelman Family Law Group regularly handles the entire range of cases.

how child support is determined
how child support is determined

Equal Responsibility

Each parent is equally responsible for providing his or her child’s financial needs. No enforcement of this responsibility can happen until child support is officially ordered by the court. In a separation, one of the parents needs to ask the court for a child support order.

When a child support order is issued, payments usually continue to be an obligation until the children are out of high school and/or they turn eighteen and can support themselves. During those years, either parent can ask the judge to make, or change a child support order.

When does a court order child support?

Each parent is equally responsible for providing for the financial needs of his or her child. Still, the court cannot enforce this obligation until it orders support. There are multiple family situations when court ordered child support is critical to the well-being of a child.

A common child support situation is when married or registered domestic partners with children legally separate, divorce or have the marriage annulled. The children’s parentage is not in question, but the parents cannot agree on a child support amount. The court will base the child support on the California guidelines calculations.

Unmarried parents of a child or children may also petition the court to establish the parental relationship and order child support.

There are other situations when a child needs financial support from his or her parents but actual visitation must be limited. In cases where a domestic violence restraining order is issued, regardless of the marital status of the parents, a child support order ensures meeting the cost of raising and protecting the child.

LCSA Involvement

Your local child support agency, or LCSA can petition the court for a child support order. If one of the parents was getting public assistance such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) LCSA will automatically file a child support suit against the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent will be included on that suit. In other situations, one of the parents asks the LCSA to provide child support services, prompting opening a child support case. When a child is placed in foster care, the LCSA may initiate a child support case against one or both parents. There are also time the court ordered child support is not being honored. Either parent may ask the LCSA to take over enforcement of the child support order.

Calculating Child Support

If parents disagree on child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on California guideline calculations. This formula considers the parents earnings or potential earnings, other income each parent receives, and the filed tax returns of each parent. Another factor is how many children the parents share. The time each parent spends with their children impacts the formula, as does the support the children will receive through other relationships. Then the court will consider health insurance expenses, mandatory union or retirement contributions, daycare and uncovered healthcare costs and more.

Child support payment orders can be more than the set amount due each month. Child support can also require the non-custodial parent to share the costs of childcare for parental continued education and reasonable child healthcare expenses. Child support orders can include shared traveling expenses from one parent’s home to the other. The child’s educational or other special needs is another consideration the court reviews prior to issuing a final child support order.

The Hittelman Family law group, which includes skilled experienced attorneys Steven Hittelman and of counsel Wayne Jones, has mediation experience as well. We guide our clients through the child support determination and calculation process from beginning to end. If you need professional help to deal with child support needs, experience the HFLG difference for yourself. Contact us or call (949) 210-3260 to learn more about how we can help you protect your greatest asset: your children.