Actress Jodie Sweetin, best known for her role as Stephanie Tanner on Full House and Fuller House, was recently ordered to pay $2,800 a month in child support to her ex-husband. The order was handed down after Sweetin’s husband alleged that she brought in more than $700,000 in income each year. Sweetin filed an Income and Expense Declaration form with the court to dispute this allegation. Her records indicate that her income is significantly less at $480,000.

How is Child Support Calculated?

When parents get divorced they must try to find mutually-agreeable terms for the split. These terms involve asset division, alimony, child custody, and child support. When spouses can’t agree to the terms a Los Angeles family court will intervene. When the court makes decisions about a child they will do what they believe serves the best interests of the child.

Income & Expense Declarations

Child support is calculated by considering the income and expenses of each parent. This is generally done by reviewing Income and Expense Declarations that are completed by each divorcing spouse. The information that is provided on these forms is given under oath, which means that the parents have a legal obligation to be honest. Intentionally providing false or inaccurate information can lead to civil sanctions and even criminal charges.

Determining Support Requirements

In California, both parents have an equal obligation to provide for their children as they grow up. In fact, parents generally have a duty to support their children until they turn 19. When parents are married and/or live together, it is not necessary to divide the support roles. However, when parents get divorced, each will be responsible for contributing to the welfare of their children. In this case, each parent must understand his or her obligation to pay. The amount each parent will be responsible for contributing will depend on their ability to pay and the custody arrangement.

A parent’s contribution to their child’s well-being may be satisfied when they have custody of that child. Having custody of the child requires added attention, resources, and sacrifices. The non-custodial parent, on the other hand, will generally be expected to contribute financially to support the child. When courts determine child support obligations they actually use a formula to help them arrive at a reasonable figure. The calculation of child support includes determining the total disposable income of both parents, which parent earns more, and which parent is empowered with primary responsibility for the child. When all of these factors are plugged into the equation, the courts have a better sense of which parent is:

  1. In the best financial position to contribute to the child’s support; and
  2. Exercising the most physical care and attention for the child.

The bottom line is that, in general, the more time you physically spend with a child, the less in financial support you will generally be required to pay. At the same time, if you have a higher earning capacity than your child’s other parent, you will likely face an increased responsibility to pay. In some cases, a parent may have primary responsibility for the child and have the highest earning power. In these situations, that parent may be faced with seemingly greater responsibility than the child’s other parent. Jodie Sweetin’s current child custody arrangement is unclear. However, it is quite possible that she is the primary caretaker and has a higher earning capacity than her ex-husband.

Using Child Support to Reduce the Disparity Between Homes

Courts may use child support to help maintain or improve a child’s standard of living after a divorce. Jodie Sweetin, for example, may be required to pay a higher amount of child support because her ex-husband earns significantly less money than she does. Paying child support to her ex-husband allows him to make sure that their child retains the standard of living that she is used to when she is with her mom. This can make the transition between homes easier for the child.

When Sweetin’s ex-husband alleged that she had a much higher income than initially disclosed, he was trying to increase the amount of child support he received. This could have been out of legitimate concern for his child’s standard of living, or it could have been a thinly-veiled attempt to secure extra (and unlawful) spousal support. Any child support that is received must be spent for the benefit of the child.

Are you getting a divorce and are interested in learning more about calculating child support? Call the child support attorneys at Fernandez & Karney to schedule a free consultation with our experienced legal team. We will review your case, explain how child support is calculated, and answer any questions you have.