This is the second post in our series on handling child support issues in Orange County, California. Our last article served as an overview of issues we will be discussing and stressed the need to speak with an family law attorney if you are involved in a dispute over support. One of the biggest mistakes parties make is to take matters into their own hands; a party whose income has dropped will sometimes reduce their payment amount without Court approval while a party not receiving support may feel that non-payment is a basis for withholding visitation. Such “self-help” can result in a party being held in Contempt of Court. Retaining a lawyer can help to ensure that you deal with the situation correctly. In this article we will discuss the complicated process by which child support is calculated in California.
Our state has one of the country’s more complicated processes for calculating child support. The Court will look at several different factors and then apply a formula found in California Family Code 4055. Factors considered in the formula include each parent’s gross income, the amount of time each parent spends with the child, state and federal tax deductions available to each parent, mandatory work expenses a parent must incur (such as union dues), and whether a parent is incurring child care costs. If one earns an extremely high wage then the formula has provisions to ensure that such a parent is not paying more than is necessary to support the child. Also, if the parent paying child support also pays alimony to a former spouse who is not the child’s mother, then child support will be reduced due to the fact that the alimony payment will count as a reduction in income.
It is common to use California’s online child support calculator to determine the amount of money to be paid. It is important to understand, however, that there are many situations in which a Family Law Judge may deviate from the standard child support formula. Times where an Orange County Judge may order that support be increased or reduced include instances in which a child has special educational or physical needs (such as if the child is disabled). The Court can also order a reduction if the paying parent is forced to incur travel costs in order to exercise their visitation (such as if the paying parent lives outside of the state).
One final consideration is how the Courts will deal with a parent who is “underemployed.” Parents sometimes intentionally choose not to work, or work for less than their full earning capacity, for various reasons. The Court’s primary concern, however, will be to ensure that the children are cared for. If it is shown that a parent is choosing to earn less than what they are capable of then the Court can “impute” income to that parent and calculate child support as if they were making their full wage. Say, for example, a parent is capable of making $50,000 per year and is working part-time for $30,000 in order to not pay child support. In such a situation the Court has the power to set support as if the parent were earning $50,000 per year.
As you can probably tell, calculating support in our state is not as straightforward as it may seem. Retaining an experienced Orange County child support attorney can assist you in ensuring that the amount set by the Court is fair and in accordance with the law. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation. Our lawyers service Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Tustin, Westminster, and Yorba Linda.