Child support is determined based on a mathematical computation set forth in the Family Code. The amount to be paid is based on many factors, far too complex to explain here. Generally speaking, child support is a function of the respective income of the parties and the amount of time each spends with the child(ren).
Child Support Guidelines
To obtain a general idea of how much child support will be paid, please visit Guideline Calculator.
However, since there are many factors not taken into consideration in this calculator, you may wish to seek the advice of counsel to help you analyze various scenarios. What is considered income for the purposes of child support?
The Court may consider income from whatever source derived. Income includes commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits, and spousal support actually received from a person not a party to the proceeding to establish a child support order under this article Income is also defined as income from the proprietorship of a business, such as gross receipts from the business reduced by expenditures required for the operation of the business.
Further, the court has discretion to consider employee benefits or self-employment benefits, taking into consideration the benefit to the employee, and any corresponding reduction in living expenses.
What if my spouse does not want to work to help support our child(ren)?
Under California law, a parent’s primary obligation is support one’s child(ren). If one parent does not want to work, courts can impute income to that parent based on that parent’s “earning capacity.” While the courts cannot force a person to work, if a parent chooses not to work, the Court may nonetheless impute income to the other parent for the purposes of calculating child support.
I have a child support order, but the other parent does not pay regularly. Can I stop visitation until the other parent pays support?
No. Child support and visitation are independent issues. If a parent does not pay child support, you must not withhold the child(ren) from him/her. Even if you are tempted, you must not disparage the other parent in front of the child(ren). If you are not receiving child support, there are many remedies available to you. Courts do not like to hear that a parent has discussed details of the case with the child(ren) or within hearing distance of them. These are adult matters to be resolved with the help of competent counsel.
How do I obtain a child support order or modify the current child support order?
You must file an Order to Show Cause with the Court. A hearing date will be set and you must serve the other parent with the paperwork. You both are required to file a current Income and Expense Declaration, which will be used by the Court to determine which party will pay the other guideline child support.
To recipients of child support:
If you wish to modify a child support order because, for example, you discovered that the other parent earns more income now than before, it is in your best interest to request a court hearing immediately. If you do nothing, you may unknowingly waive your right to any increased amount prior to the date of filing an Order to Show Cause.
To payors of child support:
If you are the payor of child support and have been laid off, for example, it is in your best interest to request a court hearing immediately. If you do not, the prior order (presumably at a higher amount) will continue until the Court modifies the existing child support order.
When should I hire an attorney to help me?
When you suspect the other party earns more than reported, has not been forthcoming with financial information, recently received a job promotion or bonus, purposely depresses his/her income, voluntarily quits his/her job, hides self-employment income, hides assets, received a large inheritance, has rental properties, has a significant amount of separate property stocks, bonds, investments, etc., then the situation is more complex, and may require the analysis of an attorney.