A court may order child, spousal or family support depending on the circumstances of the parties.
Child support is a payment by one parent to the other parent for the support of their children. The purpose is to allow children to live at the same standard of living as both of their parents.
Spousal support is a payment by one spouse to the other spouse upon filing of a divorce or legal separation. The duration is largely dependent on the length of the marriage and each person’s ability to financially support him or herself. A court may make temporary and/or permanent spousal support orders depending on the circumstances of the parties.
Family support is a payment by one parent or spouse to the other parent or spouse when both child and spousal support are at issue. A family support order designates an unallocated amount for child and spouse. Family support orders are generally made for purposes of maximizing tax benefits.
Q: How is child support calculated?
A: In California, the state has established a formula to calculate child support called “guideline child support”. Generally, the amount of support to be paid by one parent to the other is based on each parent’s income and the amount of time they spend with their child(ren). Guideline support is calculated using the assistance of a computer software program. When determining a parent’s income, the court will look to earned income from employment as well as rental income, dividends and interest received. There are many other variables that are considered in a determination of child support.
Q: I have lost my job, can I ask for more child support?
A: A child support order or agreement may be modified when either parties’ circumstance changes. For example, the amount may be modified if either parent’s financial situation changes or the amount of time the child(ren) spend(s) with each parent changes, or any other unexpected changes occur. If it has been determined that there has been a change in circumstances, the court may modify the amount to pay for the child(ren). Parents may also agree to the amount as long as their agreement is consistent with the legal guidelines and the modification is in the best interests of the child(ren).
Q: How long do I have to pay my ex-spouse?
A: Parents must provide for their children until each child reaches the age of 19, or is 18 and is no longer attending high school, whichever is earlier. Child support also terminates upon the death of the child, if the child goes on active duty in the armed forces, if the child marries, or if the child becomes legally emancipated.
Q: What is the difference between temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support?
A: Temporary spousal support is generally calculated using a guideline formula that has been established by the state of California. This formula is not binding. The court may modify the guideline calculation based on unusual circumstances. When calculating temporary spousal support, the objective of the court is to order an amount that allows the parties to maintain their pre-separation standard of living.
The court takes into consideration at least 14 different factors when ordering permanent spousal support. The purpose of permanent spousal support is to provide assistance to one party based on the marital standard of living and the circumstances that exist after the dissolution is completed and all of the marital assets and debts have been divided.
Q: For purposes of calculating the amount I have to pay, how is my income determined if I am self-employed?
A: A courts determination of self-employment income is complicated. An evaluation of a variety of factors will be completed by the court in determining a parties’ actual income available. The type of business and form of payment, among other factors may be examined during this process.
Q: How does the court calculate the amount I have to pay if I am disabled or unemployed?
A: When calculating the amount, the court examines all monthly income received. If a party receives disability payments or unemployment benefits, the required amount will be calculated by including those payments. As well, if a parent is only partially disabled yet unemployed, the court may impute income for the purpose of making a support order.
Q: If I spend more time with my child, does my child support obligation increase or decrease?
A: It depends. Child support is calculated based on a party’s income and the amount of time that they spend with their child(ren). Generally, the more time that a party spends with their child(ren), the less child support they are obligated to pay under the California guideline. This decrease in the amount occurs because parents provide financial help while their children are in their care. When one parent earns significantly more than the other, an increase in visitation time may or may not decrease the support obligation.
Q: Is the income of my new spouse considered when calculating support?
A: No. Although the court may consider new spouse income for the effect it has on your taxable income, new spouse income will not be considered as income to the person required to pay or receiving the benefit.