Orange County Child Support Attorney
Divorces can be extremely stressful experiences, but when children are involved, they become increasingly complicated. The separation of two people is a challenge, and the separation of a family all the more so. One particular aspect of divorce proceedings in California family law courts that is most often contentious is the one regarding child support. If you are considering divorce in Orange County and concerned about child support or custody, we can help.
Divorces generally involve several expenses, including potentially hefty relocation costs, and adding more financial strain can seem like an impossible demand. However, it is fairly common for some amount of child support to be awarded when parents separate. California family law dictates that both parents remain financially responsible for the child, meaning that if the child primarily resides with one parent, the other bears the duty to cover their share of the expenses. Thus, after determining the custody arrangement, the courts must determine who should be awarded child support and confirm the applicable amounts. Working with an experienced Orange County child support lawyer allows you to navigate this process successfully.
Determining Child Support in Orange County
Once determined, child support payments are generally made monthly, with the express purpose of easing the financial burden on the custodial parent of the child by paying for a portion of the expenses involved in maintaining the child’s standard of living. This includes expenses such as shelter, clothing, food, entertainment, health care, education, and more. Given that there is no easy manner to predict exactly how much such things will cost each month, you might be wondering how the courts determine what amount of child support should be awarded.
Many factors go into determining this information. A thorough understanding or access to legal guidance on the subject is critical to ensuring that said factors have been fairly and accurately assessed, ensuring that your spouse is not given the opportunity to manipulate the details available to the court, directly impacting the amount owed. Discussing such matters with your child support lawyer can go a long way toward ensuring that you are properly prepared to work with the court throughout this process.
Under What Circumstances Is Child Support Awarded?
One important detail regarding child support that is sometimes overlooked is that in California, child support must often be requested by one of the parents involved in the case. There is no automatic presumption of need. The one exception is if one of the parents is presently receiving financial support from the government or is already working with the Department of Child Support Services. That means that if the matter of financials regarding childcare is simply not brought up during the court proceedings or is settled privately outside the legal system, there would be no legally binding requirement for child support payments, and these would not be enforceable.
Another important thing to note is that a child’s parents do not have to have been married to submit a request for child support. The only requirement is that they must be able to demonstrate parentage, meaning that there must be evidence showing that the parties involved are, in fact, the child’s biological parents.
If a request for child support has been made, the courts will consider a very specific formula to determine the amounts of support that each parent is responsible for, and through this process, confirm which parent should be the recipient of child support payments. However, generally speaking, the custodial parent is most often determined to be the recipient, as they are required to cover more of the day-to-day expenses.
So How Is the Amount of Child Support Determined?
It is possible for parents to agree upon the best amount for child support amongst themselves. However, for this to be legally recognized in court, both parties must sign and submit a Stipulation to Establish or Modify Child Support and Order. This must then receive final approval from a judicial officer before being formalized, making it enforceable. Most often, the amount is determined by the courts via its own process instead.
The state of California utilizes a complex formula to determine the amount of child support owed. The aim of using such a formula is to ensure consistency from case to case. In fact, the California Department of Child Support Services has a child custody calculator available online that is free to use based on said formula. The main factors involved in this calculation are the income of each parent and the amount of time they spend with their child. The latter is done by assessing the percentage of the total time during which each parent is primarily responsible for their child, taking into account all aspects of the custody arrangement, such as weekdays, weekends, and holidays.
What Constitutes Income?
When determining how income will impact child custody payments, the court starts by looking at the gross income of each parent. All sources of income are included in this assessment, such as wages and bonuses, tips, self-employment income, rental income, unemployment benefits, disability payments, pension payments, and interest netted from investments. This is to verify how much each person can financially contribute to the care of their child. However, additional factors can impact that amount, such as tax deductions and payroll deductions. The courts will also take into account regular childcare costs covered by each parent, including amounts for other children and pre-existing child support payments. Altogether, this information is used to calculate the net disposable income of parents.
Does the Formula Account for Multiple Children in a Family?
It’s important to note that this formula was created to figure out the child support amount for one child. Families with more than one child will need to have some additional calculations made to adjust the amount accordingly. The process begins in the same manner, using the formula and inputting the corresponding numbers regarding income and time spent with the children. Once the initial child support amount has been determined, a multiplier value is applied. This value changes depending on the number of children included. Children included in this calculation are those biologically born of the two parents and those to which the parents have a legal obligation to support, such as those who were brought into the family via a lawful adoption.
The current legislation provides clear guidelines on what multipliers to use based on the number of children, as opposed to simply multiplying the first total by the number of children. This is because the manner in which the needs of a child are provided for, such as food and housing, are often through shared resources. Doing so would result in excess of funds available. Instead, the multipliers range from a value of 1 for one child to up to 2.86 for 10 children.
What Sorts of Challenges Impact Child Support Cases?
With such a specific and strict formula, it might seem like child support cases should be fairly straightforward, but that is frequently not the case. Aside from the fact that this is part of a process meant to legally divide a family, there is often an intensity of emotion felt throughout the entirety of the divorce. Every family is different, and every case is different. In some situations, such as when blended families are involved or parentage is complicated, it can be difficult to determine which parties are financially responsible for the children and how those burdens should be divided.
Then there is the matter of the actual childcare expenses. Children with significant disabilities will likely have increased needs regarding their care, whether those disabilities are mental, physical, or a combination of both. These sorts of costs must also be accounted for when determining child support.
Is It Better to Get a Lawyer for Child Support?
Despite the fact that the child support calculator is readily available online, it is possible to get different results when using it. One of the most common reasons is due to specific deductions or uncommon forms of income being overlooked. Orange County child support attorneys have extensive experience with the formula and how the court most often applies said formula in practice. That means that an attorney can provide you with the most accurate expectations regarding the anticipated amount. They can also ensure that all the appropriate documentation is provided to the court regarding your income and expenses, including things like tax returns and pay stubs. Gathering this evidence is critical to ensuring that the assessed amount is an accurate reflection of what you can offer in terms of financial support.
Additionally, your child support lawyer can apply their knowledge regarding the relationship between custody agreements and child support payments to formulate a strategy ensuring that the calculations consider your financial limitations while prioritizing what’s best for your child. Because of how heavily custody impacts child support amounts, changes made to the custodial agreement can help you later. A lawyer can help you discuss the various options and arrangements available at length.
Can a Lawyer Help Lower Child Support?
As stated previously, making changes to your child custody agreement can help you alter the child support figures in turn. A skilled attorney can assess the various factors involved and ensure that your current strategy considers this. However, there are also other situations where your financial situation might take a turn, causing you to experience significant difficulty in making your payments. Under such circumstances, you might be tempted to simply skip a few payments until you are in a more stable situation, but such a decision can have serious legal consequences. Additionally, interest is charged on any unpaid amounts, so the longer you wait to make your payment, the more money you’ll owe.
Instead, a better solution is to reach out to your Orange County child support lawyer. They can assist you with filing for a Request for Order or Stipulation to Establish or Modify Child Support and Order to ask for adjustments to the current support agreement. Adjustments are requested for a variety of reasons. Typically to have a reduction of payments approved, the court will look for any evidence of a significant change in your circumstances. Your attorney can ensure that any documentation relevant to your case is made available to the court. Generally speaking, such changes must be due to circumstances out of your control, such as mass layoffs at work or a sudden medical diagnosis.
Can Court-Ordered Child Support Be Dropped?
First of all, there is often a question of whether child support automatically ends after the child reaches the age of 18, at which point they are considered to be an adult in the eyes of the law. However, in California, parents must continue making child support payments if said child is unmarried and still attending high school as a full-time student, up until the age of 19. Only after these requirements have been met can a parent file the paperwork to terminate child support payments. If said child has significant disabilities that require continued care as an adult, the court may order child support payments to continue after the child reaches adulthood, in which case ending the payments is typically not an option.
There are, on occasion, unusual circumstances that could prompt someone to try to stop child support payments altogether before the natural end date as referenced above. These could include significant changes in one of the parents’ financial situations, a reconciliation between the parents, or the termination of parental rights.
In most cases where a parent wishes to end child support, the process is similar to when a request is made to make modifications to the arrangement. A Stipulation to Establish or Modify Child Support and Order must be filed, alongside any relevant documentation that can serve as evidence for your claim. To have the best chance of this being approved, it is critical to work with a practiced family law attorney who can ensure you have a solid case prepared.
Both parents can discuss the matter outside the court and come to a peaceful resolution; however, even in the event that they agree it is acceptable to terminate the child support payments, the decision must be made legally official to avoid any potential fines or repercussions later. To ensure this is accepted into the system, both must sign and file the appropriate paperwork.
What Is “Presumptive Child Support Amount?”
The term “presumptive child support amount” refers to the amount of child support owed based on the aforementioned formula. The purpose of creating such a formula is to ensure fairness and uniformity in every situation and that the final child support amount is achieved in an equitable manner. As such, all cases involving child support begin with the determination of child support based on that formula. However, it is called presumptive because it is “presumed” to be correct in most circumstances, with the understanding that this may not always be the case. This means that it is possible to present a viable reason the amount does not fulfill the intended purpose and is not an accurate reflection of what each parent can and should contribute. It is rare for the court to decide to deviate from this formula, but there are certainly scenarios where such deviations are applicable or even necessary.
Under What Circumstances Might the Court Deviate From Said Amount?
One example of such a scenario is a situation in which one parent is an extremely high earner. At a glance, it might seem that regardless of income, dedicating an equitable percentage of your earnings to the care of your child the fairest choice. The issue is when the amount of your income is so high that it far exceeds the child’s actual needs. The custodial parent does not need the excess payments. After all, child support funds can only be used for child-related reasons, and any misuse of that money is punishable by law. That being said, there are various other situations that could apply, such as additional special expenses not already covered by the formula or levels of care that are not proportionate to the amount of time spent with the child, meaning that timeshare becomes a potentially misleading factor.
Contact the Law Office of Stacy Campuzano
There is a lot that goes into the determination of child support payments and how long they should be maintained, and failing to take even the smallest detail into account can leave you with unnecessarily high or financially challenging expenses. If you’re facing a divorce and have concerns about custody, you need a compassionate and experienced attorney. This is why it is critical to work with an Orange County child support lawyer when going through a legal separation from your former partner. Stacy Campuzano has extensive experience in the field of family law and can answer your every question about the process and convey what you can expect as a result. To get started, simply contact the Law Office of Stacy Campuzano today. She and her team are dedicated to protecting what you value most.