When you get divorced in California you have to make a lot of decisions about your future. If you have children, you’ll be required to make important decisions that will directly affect their lives, as well. Child custody and child support are two primary areas that must be settled before a divorce can be finalized.

Custody Decisions in California Divorces

California prefers that parents agree to share joint legal and physical custody of their children. This type of arrangement allows children of divorce to remain in frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is believed to be in their best interest. The best possible scenario would be one in which both parents share 50/50 custody of the kids, allowing each parent an equal share of visitation rights. As a result, the kids split their time evenly with both parents.

Child Support Decisions in California

Child support is related to, but distinct from, child custody arrangements. In California, both parents have an obligation to provide for their children. When parents are married or together in some other way, there is typically no need to worry about how a child’s needs will be met financially. However, things can get complicated when parents split up.

Federal law requires all states to publish guidelines to help courts determine child support arrangements when parents split up. In California, child support guidelines instruct courts to consider many different factors, including:

  • Each parent’s income or earning potential
  • Assets, debts, and liabilities
  • The number of children each parent has
  • Health insurance costs and premiums
  • Support received from other parents
  • Shared costs for raising the child, and
  • Custody arrangements.

So, while custody and support are two distinct discussions, one can (and often does) impact the other. In most cases, the parent who spends the least amount of time with the child (non-custodial parent) will be responsible for child support payments. What happens when parents share custody of a child 50/50?

Child Support in 50/50 Custody Arrangements

While there are many things that can go into calculating a parent’s child support requirements, there are two primary factors: custody and income. When parents share custody of their child equally, the custody factor takes a back seat. However, 50/50 custody arrangements do not necessarily absolve parents of child support obligations.

A court can consider the income and earning potential of both parents and order the spouse with the higher income to pay child support. This may seem counterintuitive since child support is typically thought of as a tool to ensure that both parents remain active in caring for their child’s needs. The custodial parent is often not responsible for child support because they are physically present in their child’s life for a majority of the time and have daily out-of-pocket expenses in caring for that child. Support payments help to ensure that the non-custodial parent is meeting his or her parental obligations to care for their child.

Why would a parent who enjoys 50/50 custody be required to pay child support? The answer really comes down to finances. If that parent earns significantly more than the other parent, it may be necessary to require that parent to pitch in more, financially. Placing an equal financial burden on both parents may not be realistic and could create an undue burden on the lesser-earning parent.

Remember Child Support Is For the Child

When parents fight over child support it is easy to forget that the payments are made for the benefit of the child. Lines can be blurred when tempers are high, particularly when a parent is required to pay both child support and alimony. A court will not order a parent to pay child support if it does not believe that it is truly in the best interest of the child.

Los Angeles Child Support Attorneys

It is also important to remember that child support orders can be changed. If you are responsible for paying child support, but your financial situation has changed, you can ask to have your obligation reduced. Contact the Los Angeles family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney to learn more. We offer a free case evaluation and can help you understand your rights as a parent in California.