I’m Thomas Ferreira, your divorce and child custody mediator and lawyer in Carlsbad, serving North San Diego County and Riverside County with family legal services.
Have you ever been laying awake at night wondering just how much support you’re going to have to pay? Or maybe you’re cause of insomnia is how much support you should expect each month and how you’re going to make ends meet.
I was in precisely that situation back in 2005 when my wife and the mother of my two children announced that she wanted a divorce. What I learned is that some advanced planning can make the difference between playing defense (handling the support question as it came up) and playing offense (knowing the situation I was facing and proactively planning my position). Many family law litigants waste time and money having the court calculate their support. A typical Request for Order on support can cost you $2,000 in legal fees, and the questions are often no more difficult than entering some figures into the DissoMaster support calculator.
If you can have a conversation about what each party needs and if you can get a calculation of your support, either on line or through a provider such as this office, you’ll be way ahead of the game financially and also you’ll be taking a huge step toward building trust with your ex, trust that you can use to help you get your case resolved cheaply and with minimal conflict and litigation costs.
What You’ll Need to Plan for Support—What You Make and What You Spend:
Spousal support (also referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance) is normally awarded where there is a disparity between the earnings of the spouses, and hence their ability to support themselves. Spousal support is complex, and for a discussion of how it’s calculated, see my blog series on that subject.
In the vast majority of cases, child support is awarded according to a formula in the family code, usually referred to by the court as “guideline” child support. The data you need here are the percentage of time that the child or children live with you (the number of hours during the week they are in your home or under your care divided by the number of hours in a week (168)), and the Gross income of each parent. There are some other data pieces, but those are the biggest 2 factors.
To plan for support, you need an idea of what you earn and what you spend. For planning on this, get your laptop and your latte, and create an excel spread sheet. Contact my office and I’ll send you an excellent spreadsheet for this purpose. Gather together the following papers, if you have access to them:
- Pay stubs for your last 3 months of work;
- A profit and loss statement and your accounting data if you are self-employed;
- Your most recent federal and state tax returns;
- your checking and savings account statements for the past 3 to 6 months.
Attorneys and judges use support calculators such as DissoMaster to calculate support, but you need the raw data. In California family court, judges use the information from the Income and Expense Declaration (click the link to see the form) to give them the data to do the calculation. So you’ll want to download that document and use it as a worksheet. Enter average figures for all areas of your spending, including your monthly bills, utilities, food, clothing, entertainment, car expenses, educational expenses and etc.
But don’t stop there. Whether you are a paying or supported spouse, you’ll need to know what you’ll need to move out, or to continue living in the marital residence, if that’s your plan. So do a “needs” budget as well as a “current spending budget.” I have a worksheet you can access for this by clicking here. This will help you to plan how you will survive and thrive following the breakup.
Whether you resolve your case through mediation, self-represent or hire a lawyer, this planning will be invaluable to keeping your costs down and making firm and wise decisions regarding your finances and children. If you need assistance in this, please contact my office. We offer a free initial consultation to help get you started. We can run the DissoMaster support calculator and tell you what you likely would pay or receive for spousal support and child support.
Whether you decide to use our services, I have a passion to help you succeed in your endeavors, and at least we’ll get you off on a solid footing as you move through the divorce process.
I remain …
Very truly yours,