Last week I discussed child support arguments from the payer’s perspective. But what about the struggling parent who is charged with caring for the child and providing financially? What about daycare and medical care? Am I entitled to help with ball shoes, or clothes, or fees for extracurricular activities?
To reiterate what I told the payers, basic guideline child support is calculated based on a formula in the Family Code, and you can get a rough idea of what you’re entitled to by using the Department of Child Support Services’ online support calculator. Before you go there, have the following data ready:
1. The number of supported children;
2. The tax filing status and number of exemptions each parent takes;
3. The gross earnings (or earning capacity) of the parties;
4. Deductions such as healthcare costs, mandatory retirement and mandatory expenses; and
5. The percentage of weekly hours spent by the parties.
If you don’t know the earnings of the other party, put in an estimate. Use the Gross, before-tax monthly income in the calculator, not the net. The program will account for the taxes, and if you enter an after-tax amount you will not get an accurate child support calculation.
But what about those little extras? Child care? Clothing? Extracurricular activities?
The basic child support number is meant to include ordinary child-rearing expenses such as housing, clothing, food and etc. So if you go before the court arguing that dad has not bought a new pair of shoes for a year, know that it probably won’t matter.
But there are certain child support add-ons which are mandatory. But you must ask for these at your child support hearing or make sure they are included in your child support order. The mandatory add-ons are described in Family Code section 4062 as follows:
(a) The court shall order the following as additional child support:
(1) Child care costs related to employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills.
(2) The reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children as provided in Section 4063.
Whenever the law uses the word “shall,” it means that what follows is mandatory. The court must award these costs against both parents. You can expect, in most cases, to receive a mandatory reimbursement of half of child care costs related to employment or necessary education, and half of uncovered medical. The court does have the discretion to apportion the costs between the parents, but the usual apportionment of mandatory additional support is 50-50.
But wait, there’s more. Section 4062 has a subsection (b) which reads as follows:
(b) The court may order the following as additional child support:
(1) Costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children.
(2) Travel expenses for visitation.
The word “may” means that the court can award them, but it doesn’t have to. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Generally, the court will award such educationally-related costs if they are “extraordinary,” that is, over and above the normal educational expenses. They can include ball fees for that student that’s athletically gifted. They could include a tutor for that student struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder or high-functioning autism.
It’s important to understand that both parents have a legal duty to financially support their children. The court can impute income to a party that refuses to work or would rather live on a park bench than pay his/her support.
Next week I’m going to write about what to do if the other parent just won’t pay. How do you get an order of child support, or enforce the one that you have? Until next week,
Love your family,
Protect your finances, and
Reach for your future!
Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.