Child support is the monthly payments given from one parent to another, meant to be used to help pay expenses for their child(ren), including but not limited to: medical, education, food and housing. The parents (with the assistance of a lawyer) can come to a consensus and draft their own child support agreement, which will be legally enforced. When there is a disagreement, however, the conflict can turn very emotional very quickly, due to its potential to severely impact either parent’s financial position.
That said, the legal side of child support is relatively simple when compared with many of the other issues present when going through a divorce. In an effort to reduce the subjectivity of the court and all involved, California utilizes a set of somewhat rigid and mathematic guidelines. In fact, a link to those guidelines as well as a calculator that can give you an estimate of how much you may have to pay in child support can be found at the bottom of this page. Please take careful note: this is only an estimate, and in no way guarantees or solidifies the amount you will give or receive.
In general, there are three main factors that will be considered when determining child support: The amount of time either parent spends with the child(ren), the difference in income, and the number of children involved. (writer’s note: I noticed that there is some nuance to the income issue that I don’t entirely understand. Is it percentage of income, the difference in income between the two, or something else? I would recommend changing the wording to whatever you deem most accurate.) The court itself can do very little to change how these factors will be handled.
Nevertheless, like anything else in a divorce, having a skilled lawyer is of paramount importance. In the case of child support, either party may attempt to hide, obscure, or lie about certain factors that could impact how the calculation is handled. Even when such malice is not present, there is also the possibility that either party may be mistaken about one detail or another, resulting in an unfair child support arrangement. Either issue can, and likely will, cause harm to the children in the long run, so it is best to avoid those possibilities. An experienced lawyer will be capable of making absolutely sure that nothing is hidden and no errors are made.
Changing a Child Support Agreement
Child support agreements can be changed even after the divorce is finalized. This can be due to a number of factors, ranging from a change in either parent’s financial situation to the realization that there was a miscalculation of some sort in the original child support arrangement. The process is handled very much like it was the first time.
The only difference worth noting is when one parent (almost invariably the paying parent) seeks to change the arrangement due to a sudden drop in their income, resulting in an “inability to pay.” It is possible to change the support arrangement due to this, but it can often be difficult. It requires a significant drop in income for the court to take interest. A good lawyer can help you figure out if you qualify and how to go about doing so.
California’s guidelines on Child Support and the Child Support Estimate Calculator
By Connor Douglas Johnson