Family law courts across the nation adhere to “guidelines” and a statutory formula in determining appropriate child support awards. In actuality, the “guidelines” provide mandatory requirements intended to create uniformity in the calculations of child support that are presumed correct.
The guidelines take into account the general principles that (1) a parent’s first and primary obligation is to support his or her minor child consistent with his or her own circumstances and “station in life” (“station in life” meaning the parents’ social standings, i.e. lifestyle, work status, economic circumstances, etc.); and (2) both parents are by law mutually responsible for the support of their child.
Understand, the children’s interests are placed as the top priority by the state of California. The Family Code imposes children’s entitlement to share in the standard of living of both their parents. When the parents’ standards of living are disparate, it follows, the amount of child support may, in turn, improve the standard of living of the payee-parent’s household.
Generally, payor parents do not express concern over providing financial assistance to their child, but often voice frustration with the notion the other parent may benefit from the payment. From the Court’s perspective, improvement of the other parent’s “station in life” minimizes the disparity in the child’s standard of living in the two homes and is thus in the child’s best interests.
The parent having primary physical responsibility of the child (i.e. “custody”) is generally recognized as contributing a significant portion of his or her resources for the financial support of that child. The non-custodial parent is presumed to contribute less to the financial support of the child since he or she is not providing the same daily care for the child. The guideline child support formula accounts for this by factoring in each parent’s incomes and the amount of time each is physically responsible for the child.
The amount of child support is calculated by using a complicated algebraic formula. Family law attorneys and judges utilize computer programs to assist in the calculations. The most commonly known program is “Dissomaster.” Dissomaster considers in the child support calculation, such as, whether income received is taxable or nontaxable, any contributions made by a parent to retirement, deductions from their wages, pre-tax or post-tax, and more.
In addition to monthly child support, Court often order parties to share in what are referred to as child support “add-ons.” These typically relate to child-care costs related to either parent’s employment, education, or training for employment, as well as uninsured healthcare costs. See Family Code §§ 4062 and 4063.
The above is intended as a broad overview of child support in the Court system. In reality, what the Court can consider in calculating child support can often be complex. If you believe child support may be an issue for you, whether receiving or paying, it is always a good idea to consult with a trained professional to provide you insight and guidance for what you may be facing.
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