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Speak with a qualified Los Angeles child support attorney at Fernandez & Karney today. We offer a complimentary consultation and will meet at your convenience. Attorneys Steven Fernandez and Mark Karney are Certified Family Law Specialists with over fifty years of combined experience.
Parents must financially support their children in Los Angeles. Formal child support orders are issued along with child custody and visitation, parentage, divorce, legal separation, and order modifications in family court. They may also be a stand-alone proceeding in a modification, enforcement, or human services matters.
Regardless of the source of your child support case, Fernandez & Karney wants to help you achieve a fair resolution. Our Los Angeles child support attorneys are:
- Successful in California child support negotiations and litigation
- Reliable and honest when offering advice about pursuing child support modifications
- Experienced in complex child support calculations such as family business income and executive compensation
How a Los Angeles Child Support Attorney Can Help You
California has its own guidelines to help the family court calculate child support. While these guidelines involve a specific calculation and rules for deviations, it is still vital to have an experienced child support lawyer by your side whenever your financial future and the support of your children are in question.
At Fernandez & Karney, we believe every parent should know how child support is calculated in Los Angeles and how the formula applies explicitly to and impacts a parent’s own life and income. Our child support attorneys want to take any fear or misgivings out of the court and calculation process while making the experience run as smoothly as possible.
Whether your child support matter is by itself or part of a more extensive divorce, parentage, or modification case, Fernandez & Karney is ready to assist you with the following and more:
- Explaining your legal rights as a parent and a payor or receiver of child support
- Identifying potential deviations or add-ons for child care or income needs of you or your child
- Ensuring you understand when and how enforcement comes into play as well as times a modification may be possible
- Assessing your current court orders for modifications and clarity
- Determining any initial child support payments or the ramifications of a modification
- Aiding in child support collection and enforcement of child support orders
- Negotiating a child support agreement
- Litigating your child support position before the court
Fernandez & Karney is a full-service family law firm. Please call us with any questions about child support or other family law matters. Our Los Angeles child support lawyers want to help you achieve your family law goals and the best possible outcome for yourself and your children.
California’s Duty To Support
In California, both parents have an equal responsibility to support their minor child “in the manner suitable to the child’s circumstances.” The law requires parents to provide for their offspring until the child reaches nineteen years of age, but the courts will enforce an agreement between the mother and the father for the continued support of an adult child.
If the child is incapacitated, there is no maximum-age ceiling limiting the parents’ duty. Occasionally, a judge may specify some future occurrence when the payments terminate, such as the child’s marriage.
Should the state, some governmental or private institution, or an individual volunteer take on the care for the child, they might be able to recover the cost from the parent. If the court orders child support payments and the county incurs costs and attorney fees while enforcing such order, these fees and expenses are also chargeable to the parent.
In California, registered domestic partners have the same responsibilities towards their children as a married couple does.
Each Parent’s Ability To Contribute
Each child’s parent has a duty to contribute to the child’s support according to their ability. The authorities usually consider the duty towards the child fully satisfied concerning the custodial parent.
To improve the child’s standard of living and to eliminate the disparity between the divorced or separated parents’ households, the court can require an additional contribution. However, a parent can claim a hardship deduction under limited circumstances like a catastrophic uninsured loss.
California’s Child Support Guideline
Monthly child support obligations in California are determined by a statewide guideline. This guideline uses a mathematical formula including several case factors when calculating support amounts.
These factors include but are not limited to:
- The actual average monthly income of each parent
- The tax filing status of each parent
- The number of children the parents share
- The percentage of time each parent spends with the children
- Any court-ordered child support paid for the benefit of children from other relationships
- Health insurance premiums paid by either parent
- Mandatory retirement contributions paid by either parent
- Compulsory union dues paid by either parent
Situations like self-employment can cause difficulty when determining child support payments.
The Math Behind Child Support
California’s mathematical formula for the calculation of child support is CS = K[HN – (H%)(TN)]. The Statewide Uniform Guideline offers a detailed explanation of this equation.
The breakdown is as follows:
- CS stands for the child support, the amount to be determined, or the x one might recall from high school algebraic equations
- H% is the percentage of time when the high earner has the primary responsibility for the children. “Primary responsibility” is a term defined by the courts in case law. So, for instance, school time can be included or excluded depending on who the primary caretaker is or who is paying the tuition
- K is a fraction, representing the allocation of income by both parents, in total, towards child support
- TN is the total net monthly disposable income of both parents
- Finally, HN is the high earner’s net monthly disposable income. The net disposable income is calculated by deducting taxes and costs like retirement contributions, disability and health insurance, or mandatory union dues from the gross income. The court may adjust the result if it believes it does not accurately represent the potential future earnings.
An example with numbers is:
- $4,500 monthly = HN (high earner’s net monthly disposable income);
- $6,300 monthly = TN (total net monthly disposable income of both parents);
- High earner spends 30% of the time with the child in the role of primary caretaker = H%
- Child support = K*[4,500 – (0.3*6,300)];
- K must be calculated first: instructions are provided in California Family Code Section 4055. The formula for the calculation of K can vary depending on the actual H% number and the combined income of the parents.
Here, K=1+H% multiplied by 0.25 (this fraction comes from a table listed in Section 4055, and its application is limited to the combined disposable income of both parents, ranging between $801 and $6,666). So, K=1+ 30%*0.25=0.325;
Once the number is input into the formula, it will look like this:
- Child support = 0.325*[4,500 – (0.3*6,300)]; and
- This equals 0.325*[4,500 – 1,890] = 0.325*2,610 = $848.25.
This example is hypothetical. The underlying variables are subject to fact-finding by the courts. In very broad terms, a parent’s contribution decreases:
- If they act as the person primarily responsible for the child more often than the other parent
- If the other parent has a higher income
The result of this calculation constitutes a rebuttable presumption as to what the support should be. However, there are exceptions where the court can issue an order deviating from the calculation amount.
Deviations from the Child Support Guideline
Deviations are permitted from the child support guideline when following the guideline calculations produces results that are unfair or unreasonable. In such cases, a judge may award more or less support dependent upon the circumstances.
Situations that necessitate deviations include when:
- The payor parent has an extraordinarily high income, and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children
- The payor parent is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that parent’s custodial time
- Both parents have substantially equal time with the children, but one parent’s housing costs are considerably higher or lower than the other parent
- The children or a child has special medical or care needs that require more child support than the formula amount allows
The above is not an exhaustive list of situations calling for a child support deviation. An experienced Los Angeles child support attorney can review a specific case for unreasonable or unfair guideline calculations that would trigger the court to consider a deviation.
Add-Ons to Monthly Child Support Obligations
Some child support calculations require add-ons to the basic guideline amounts. These are for the benefit of the children and shared by both parents equally unless ordered otherwise by the court.
Add-ons may include:
- Child care costs related to employment, necessary education, or training for employment skills
- Any reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children
As with deviations, a Los Angeles child support lawyer can provide more information about add-ons and the effect they may have on a particular support case.
Temporary or Expedited Child Support Orders
If child support is the subject of dispute between parents, the court can issue a temporary order for the payment of support. Should the parents reconcile and resume living together in one household, the interim order loses its effect.
In California, the court can also issue an expedited support order while reviewing and awaiting a pending hearing. An expedited support order typically becomes valid thirty days after the service of all required documents on the obligated parent. The court can also make the order effective retroactively as of the application filing date.
If the obligated parent’s income is unknown, the judge can order the parent to pay the minimum defined in the state’s welfare laws. The California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Act sets forth the “minimum basic standards of adequate care” in dollar amounts, starting at $341.
Modification of Child Support Orders
The court can modify or terminate a child support order with some limitations. Child support modification requires that either parent experience and prove to the court that a significant change in circumstances has occurred, making the current support order a necessity. Ultimately the court will make any decision to modify according to the best interests of the children involved.
A significant change in circumstances may include, but is not limited to:
- A job loss
- A drastic change in income
- A substantial change in parenting time
There is a simplified process’’ available to parents seeking a modification of child support who cannot afford legal counsel. This is provided on the California Courts website.
Termination of Child Support Orders
In California, a parent’s obligation to pay child support typically ends at eighteen. This is extended to nineteen if the child is still attending high school. However, parents can make support agreements extending child support through higher education or a disabled child’s adulthood.
Non-Payment of Child Support in California
Non-payment of child support is a serious offense in California, carrying severe consequences. Parents can seek enforcement of support orders through the family court. The court has the power to levy sanctions, including monetary penalties and jail time, upon a parent found in contempt of a child support order.
The California Department of Child Support Services can report missed child support payments to the credit reporting bureaus. Passports may be denied issuance or renewal by the U.S. State Department by anyone owing $2,500 or more in child support payments until all the past due payments are paid.
In addition, the state can intercept and garnish any of the following to satisfy a child support debt:
- Tax refunds
- Unemployment benefits
- Disability insurance
- Worker’s compensation payments
Professional and driver’s licenses of owing parents may also be suspended.
As child support arrears are not subject to modification, it is vital that any parent in fear of slipping behind in their support obligation contact an experienced Los Angeles child support attorney immediately about a child support modification.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Child Support Attorney Today
At Fernandez & Karney, our Los Angeles child support attorneys are proud to provide complete and detailed information on the child support topics that matter to you. If you need further assistance with any of these issues or another family law case, please call us or schedule a complimentary consultation today!