Child support orders are based on two primary factors: 1) the income of both parties, and, 2) the amount of time each party spends with the children. Generally, the non-custodial parent, or the parent whose income is the highest, pays support to the other parent for the time period that the children are not in his or her custody. In other words, the more time the non-custodial parent spends with the children, the less child support s/he will be ordered to pay to the custodial parent.
The calculation of child support is done by a complicated algebraic formula, which is beyond the expertise of most attorneys. Thus, a computer program used by attorneys, known as the dissomaster, has been designed to make this calculation. The attorney submits information regarding income and time spent with the children, and the dissomaster then calculates the amount of support due, according to California guidelines. It is not uncommon for courts to order more than the minimal guideline amount in circumstances when one party has demonstrated hardships, or where there are statutory allowed “add-ons.” Standard hardships include the birth of another child in a subsequent marriage. Add-ons include the cost of day care while the parents are at work, and medical insurance.
Child support may not be waived by agreement of the parties. Both parties have a statutory obligation to support their children until they reach 18 years of age. In some instances that obligation may be continued until the children are 19 years old, if the children have not yet graduated high school, and they are attending school full time. In those situations, the obligation ends once the child reaches 19 years of age, or graduates high school, whichever happens first.
Modification of Child Support Orders
Child support orders are always modifiable upon a showing of a change in circumstances. The custodial parent may seek an increase in support payments upon a showing that the non-custodial parent had a pay raise. Conversely, the non-custodial parent may seek a decrease in court ordered child support payments upon a showing that s/he lost a job, had a decrease in pay, became disabled and unable to work, or other compelling circumstances. In order to have court ordered support payments modified, the requesting party must go to court and request a change. This is done by the filing of an order to show cause. Thus, the change is not automatic, and the court will not make the adjustment on its own.
Department of Child Support Services
All counties throughout the state of California have local child support departments that are empowered to enforce child support orders. The Department can enforce existing orders, and it can initiate support proceedings on its own. It can also set proceedings to modify or increase existing support orders, as well as go after parents who are behind, or in arrears, with regard to their court ordered child support obligations.
In theory, the Department represents the county and not any individual party or litigant. However, in practice, the party against whom the orders are sought will be fighting the county if s/he is in disagreement with their findings. Thus, it is important to hire a skilled attorney who is familiar with Department procedures, as well as the statutory basis for modification of child support orders .
I have appeared in the Los Angeles Department of Child Support Services on numerous occasions, and I have a good working relationship with many of the attorneys who work there. I will aggressively advocate on your behalf.