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Determining Child Support in California

On May 3, 2014 Latin and American pop singer Marc Anthony took the stand in his child support case with his ex-wife, Dayanara Torres, who is requesting $100,000 more a month in child support from him. Anthony’s ex-wife took him back to court to request additional child support alleging that Anthony was hiding money in order to pay less child support. Anthony insists that he is not hiding any money and has been paying all of the costs in relation to his children’s needs.

While Marc Anthony’s case did not take place in California, it presents an interesting question regarding what is taken into consideration when determining the amount of child support that should be paid. California Courts offer assistance with determining guideline child support, however it is often complicated to understand where the numbers come from.

Who is Child Support Paid To?

Child support will generally be paid to the primary custodial parent. The primary custodial parent is the parent that the child lives with for more than 50% of the time. There are cases in which this situation will differ, however. There are some instances where the difference of income between the parties is so vast that even a parent with less than 50% custody will receive child support from the primary custodian parent who earns the higher income.

What Are The Factors Considered?

There are two primary factors that California’s family courts look to when calculating child support: the first is each parent’s income and the second is the time that each parent spends with the child/children. The time is input using percentages (e.g., 70%, 30%, 50%, etc).

All judges and courts in California follow the same guidelines when calculating the specific amount of child support. This formula is very complicated, and therefore the courts depend on a computer program called DissomasterTM to calculate monthly child support amounts. Both parents are responsible for providing the information to input into the program. This program will provide the parents with “guideline child support”, meaning the exact number that the program calculates. However, a skilled family law attorney can and will negotiate certain items with the other parent to ensure the proper child support is received each month.

Are There Additional Factors?

There are other factors that can be taken into account in determining child support. These factors can be decided between the parents in order to either increase or decrease the amount of child support paid to the primary custodial parent. For example, one parent may agree to pay the child’s health insurance, day-care or child-care and extra-curricular activities. In addition, the courts will consider whether the payor is already paying child support or spousal support in previous marriages and whether there are any mandatory retirement deductions or union dues that are deducted from his or her paycheck.

How long is child support paid for?

Under California law, child support is paid until the child is eighteen years old, but may continue until the child is 19, if the child is unmarried and attending high school full-time. In some special circumstances, the court may order child support to continue after the child emancipates because of special circumstances.

It is important to note that if there are arrears on child support (missed payments, pursuant to a court order), then the payor will likely still be liable for making payments even after the child is emancipated until the arrears are paid in full, including any accrued interest.

Once child support is set, is there any way to modify it?

Yes. Typically child support can be modified in California if the one of the parents is able to show a change in circumstances from the previous order that warrants a change in the child support order. Common change in circumstances include, changes in income; changes in parents work schedules or changes in custody that result in modifying the child support order.

Navigating through child support issues can be difficult to do alone. Attorney Sanjay A. Paul has extensive experience with these issues and can help you to determine what options will work best for you. Mr. Paul has negotiated child support in court in front of family law Judges as well as in front of the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). Contact Sanjay A. Paul at (626) 325-0770 for a free consultation today.