Child support can be at issue in a number of family law proceedings, including marital proceedings (Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage, Annulment, Legal Separation), non-marital proceedings where two parties have children together but are not married, and actions either initiated or maintained by the County, through the Department of Child Support Services. In any context, the Family Court is vested with the authority to order parents of a child to pay child support for their minor children. In some situations, a parent can be ordered to pay child support to their adult children.
Base Child Support
Child support calculations are done pursuant to a formula set forth in the Family Code, and can be done using a variety of child support calculators approved by the California Judicial Council. These programs are used by the Court to arrive at a presumptively correct amount of support to be paid by one party to the other. The calculator takes into account the number of children, the visitation timeshare, the relative incomes of the parties, and any authorized deductions from a party’s income in coming to a child support amount.
Supplemental or Fluctuating Income
Oftentimes, a party will have speculative or fluctuating income which will need to be accounted for in a child support calculation. This income could be a result of a party who receives commissions or is self-employed and does not receive a predictively steady amount of income. It could be a result of bonus income received by a party or the receipt of Restricted Stock Units (“RSUs”) or sale proceeds from a party exercising Stock Options. In either event, the Court may issue a base amount of support pursuant to a guideline calculation, and order one or both parties to pay an additional percentage of any additional income received from these speculative sources. This type of order is commonly known as a “Smith/Ostler” payment and is used to ensure that the correct amount of child support is being paid by a party who receives additional income in amounts that are either not guaranteed to be paid (as in a performance bonus) or in an unknown amount (as in a commission or grant of RSUs).
Child Support Add-Ons
In addition to the base amount of child support, the Court can order one or both parties to make additional payments for certain expenses. These payments are made in addition to the base amount of support. Some categories of child support add-ons are mandatory, and must be ordered by the Court, and others are discretionary.
The Court must order the following costs to be paid as additional child support (FC 4062(a)): Child care costs related to employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills; and the reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children.
The Family Code indicates that the Court may order the following costs be paid as additional child support (FC 4062(b)): Costs related to the educational or special needs of the children; and travel expenses for visitation.
Duration of Child Support
A parent’s obligation to pay child support continues until the child turns 18 years old and has graduated high school, turns 19 years old, or is otherwise modified or terminated by court order (Family Code §3901). A party seeking to modify his or her child support obligation, or the amount of child support received, may not seek modification of an existing order prior to the date he or she files a motion seeking such relief from the Court. For more information regarding modification of a child support order, click here.
Due to the complex nature of child support orders, it is important to consult with an attorney regarding your rights and obligations.
If you would like to discuss your child support matter with one of our experienced Family Law attorneys, please call our office at 408-294-4525 or send us an email through our Contact Page to schedule a time for a free one hour consultation with one of our attorneys. During that consultation, we can run a guideline child support calculation using information provided by you to give you an estimate of the amount of child support you may receive, or be ordered to pay, by the Court.
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Del Ponte & Hirz | Attorneys at Law
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