How to get more–or pay less–in child support

Posted on : November 29, 2013


Child Support is one of the hottest issues in today’s family law. In case after case, one side feels it is paying too much, while the other side sees the same amount as not nearly enough. In almost every divorce, separation or paternity action, child support is a big issue.

In fact, disagreements over support are so common that in 1992 California adopted an algebraic formula to help Courts decide what’s fair. California Family Code Section 4055 says: “(a) The statewide uniform guideline for determining child support orders is as follows: CS= K [HN – (H%) (TN)].”

Sounds simple, right?

The fact is, even seasoned attorneys can have trouble working that formula. That’s why–for starters–they use computer programs like “The Dissomaster,” or “X-Spouse.” They type in the variables and–voila!–out pops the Guideline Child Support figure that should be fair and affordable for all parties involved.

But attorneys are attorneys. And their clients, well, they want what they want. So even computers and formulas can’t stop attorneys from divorcing parties from disagreeing.

And, as it turns out, most of the variables in the formula–especially those dealing with income or time–are subject to interpretation.

And “interpretation” is what can mean the higher wage earner must pay significantly more for child support.

For example, job related expenses are allowed to be deducted when calculating income for the formula. But what exactly is a “job related” expense–a new car, a country club membership, or frequent trips to New York?

And what if one spouse wants to keep living in a house that is no longer affordable? Is it fair to expect the other spouse to pay part of that?

The formula can also report an unrealistic number if one of the parents income is exceedingly high or low, or if the child has high medical needs, or a host of other factors.

Plus, things can change over time. Many times, the Guideline Child Support that was right was yesterday is now longer appropriate today. In the case of a major job change, for example. Or a layoff. A change in matrimonial status. Or even in the case where one of the parents wins the lottery (hey, it can happen!).

All of these issues can dramatically impact the amount of child support you pay, or collect. And they’re solid reasons why it is best to consult an experienced attorney when you’re entering into a divorce or separation, or if you’d like to see a change made in a support agreement that was made sometime in the past.

Learn more about marriage and divorce issues here.

Legally Barb is attorney Barbara E. McNamara, a Certified Family Law Specialist serving Orange County and nearby areas. For a consultation, reach her at 714-740-2542 or barb@LegallyBarb.com.

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