Child support in California often involves applying a set formula, but the process tends to be less straightforward than it sounds. Since it involves both children and finances, it may be emotionally heated and painful. There also may be situations in which you need to ask the court to deviate from the child support guidelines. At Lerner Poole & Stewart, LLP, our San Francisco child support lawyers have over five decades of combined experience offering knowledgeable representation in child support matters and other issues arising from marriage dissolution. Our divorce attorneys can help people pursue child support, request a variance from the guidelines, or seek a modification after the process has been finalized.Calculating Child Support Payments
Divorced parents have a duty to pay child support to their children until they are legally emancipated. This can be when the child is 18 years old or completes 12th grade, whichever happens later. Emancipation can also occur when a child enters a valid marriage, enters active military duty, or obtains a declaration of emancipation from the court.
In California, a court follows specific guidelines to determine how much child support parents need to pay. The guidelines require the court to consider factors such as net disposable income, how many children must be supported (including children from other marriages or relationships), and "timeshare." This last factor is determined based on how much time each parent spends with the children, including visitation hours.
Courts determine net disposable income by looking at a parent's gross annual income. This includes almost all potential sources of money, including a parent's salary, wages, bonuses, business income, commissions, rental incomes from property, royalties, or unemployment benefits. It also subtracts certain deductions like health insurance premiums, extraordinary health expenses, mandatory union dues, and tax obligations.
There are cases when a parent attempts to evade child support obligations by staying unemployed or taking on less work than he or she is capable of doing. If a court makes a finding that a parent has purposefully evaded child support, a California court has the power to impute reasonable income to a parent by looking at that person's earning ability and make a determination of child support based on what the parent could reasonably earn. Our child support attorneys can guide San Francisco residents through these complex situations.
Timeshare, or the amount of time a parent is primarily responsible for a child, is determined by multiple factors. In addition to who the child primarily lives with, the court also considers who takes the kids to school, who pays for school, who attends activities such as music performances or athletic contests, and similar issues.
After income and timeshare are determined, the court calculates child support using a formula. It has discretion to vary from the calculation based on certain situations that justify a variance in the best interest of the children. For example, if one parent has an extraordinarily high income, and the guideline amount is significantly more than what the child needs on a regular basis, the court may order a lower amount.
If you and your spouse are able to reach agreement about child support on your own, you can submit this agreement to the court to review and approve. The agreement will still have to be in the children's best interests and meet their needs until they are 18 years old. In some cases, circumstances change after a divorce. A parent may wind up spending significantly more time with the child, losing a job, or getting a promotion. You may be able to obtain a modification after the initial order based on a change in circumstances.Enlist a Child Support Lawyer in San Francisco
It can help to have a family law attorney on your side to negotiate an agreement on child support, child custody, or other issues. At Lerner Poole & Stewart, LLP, our San Francisco child support attorneys have guided individuals throughout the Bay Area, including in Alameda County communities such as Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda through divorce proceedings. You can reach us at (415) 391-6000 or via our online form to schedule an appointment.