Child support 101Top Highlights, Legalese Thursday, July 5th, 2012
Living outside of the box: In our community this mantra is the rule, not the exception. We incorporate unorthodox thinking into the way that we love, the way that we work and even the way that we parent our children. We form creative arrangements for the parenting of our children that vary from traditional nuclear two-parent homes to arrangements between multiple couples and extended family members. Let us not forget the many newer members of our community that have joined us having “come out” and are facing the task of developing parenting plans in the midst of backlash and anger from their opposite-sex ex-spouses/partners.
For those of you that are single mothers and fathers, or mothers or fathers being gauged by hefty child support payments, you don’t need an article to remind you that child support is a topic that goes hand-in-hand with any discussion about co-parenting. In California there is a rock solid legal obligation that each parent has to support his or her child. Regardless of his or her lifestyle preference or custody plan, he or she is financially obligated to support that child. And the parties that are obligated to support that child are not limited to the child’s biological parents (for instance, the domestic partner or husband/wife of a woman that births a child during the union can be obligated to support that child in some instances – LGBT parentage is a developing area of the law and an interesting topic in its own right).
The California legislature has come up with a mathematical equation to determine exactly what that financial obligation shall be, to the dollar. This obligation is called the “guideline.” Support under the guideline is determined by the gross income of each respective parent, and the percentage that each parent spends with that child. There are many laws surrounding child support, and some misunderstandings about child support need to be debunked.
Child support should be based on what your actual income is. Expenses like health insurance premiums, mandatory retirement costs and mortgage interest payments can be reduced from what the court considers to be your income. Additional biological or adoptive children and costs for their care increase your bills and accordingly reduce your available income – so the court will reduce your financial obligation related to all of the children
Child support can almost always be modified on an appropriate basis. If a child support order is several years old, it is probable that the income or timeshare of the children has changed and should be modified to reflect the current circumstances.
Contrary to popular belief, child support payments do not include health care premiums and day care costs. Those are separate amounts that each parent is responsible for – and can be requested in connection with a child support action as an additional obligation
Having a larger timeshare than the other parent doesn’t mean that you won’t end up owing child support under the guideline. Again, the guideline is based on the respective income of each party, and a higher earning parent may in fact have a higher obligation, even if she or he has more time with and responsibility of the child.
Keep in mind that a fair and reasonable child support arrangement with the other parent can help avoid unnecessary arguments, misunderstandings and difficulty.
This article is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice or the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Please seek the assistance of an attorney to discuss these issues as they apply to your specific situation.
Rachel Young is a family law practitioner in San Diego County. She represents LGBT clients in divorce, domestic partnership dissolutions, and handles issues relating to child custody and support. If you have questions about the information presented above or to schedule a free consultation at her Hillcrest office, you can contact Attorney Young at 619-584-0505 or you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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