Thomas Ferreira, your child custody and divorce lawyer and mediator in Carlsbad, California, here. Today I want to talk about child support.
Have you ever been laying awake at night wondering how much you’re going to have to pay in child support? Or perhaps you’ve done some child support calculations and you’re wondering how to live on what’s left? Whether you are married or are a never-married parent, child support is one of those unavoidable burdens, much like death and taxes. But be of good cheer; there are some arguments and strategies that you may not have heard of, and this month I’m going to do a series on exactly how child support is calculated, and also some things you can do to either reduce your burden or collect what you need to raise those kids.
Let’s begin with the legal roots of the child support obligation. In all 50 states, and all territories of the United States, the law recognizes the duty of parents to financially support their children. About 20 years ago child support became a hot-button political issue, as candidates for public office and even for president made political hay from a perceived national concern over “dead-beat dads.”
This political pressure resulted in the system we have today, as the federal government forced every state to adopt guidelines governing exactly how much a non-custodial parent must pay a custodial parent in child support. Even in joint custody cases, if you make more money than the other parent, you can expect to pay some support, and, if you’re doing really well and the non-custodial spouse is down and out, you could get hit with child support even if the other parent only has 20 percent time with the kids!
California’s state-wide guidelines are contained in Family Code section 4055. Reading this code section is a cure for insomnia, and you would have to be a mathematician to figure out your support just by reading the statute.
Therefore, enterprising software writers have come up with computer programs to calculate child support. When you go into a family law or support division courtroom in California, you’ll find that the judges have the support calculators loaded on to their laptops, and county law libraries will normally have the software as well. In San Diego county, where I practice, the program of choice is called DissoMaster(tm) and I, like all practitioners, own a license for this software.
If you require a child support calculation, contact my office and we can run a DissoMaster calculation for you. If you’re reading this at midnight, try the online calculator by clicking here.
If you are a paying parent, it’s best to run support calculations while sitting down. I have seen numerous cases of what I refer to as DissoMaster shock, a condition where a speechless parent first learns what the State of California will require them too pay. The fact is, those little urchins are expensive, especially when they become teenagers. Recognizing this, the guidelines provide for some rather high numbers.
The good news for payers is that all is not lost. There are ways to reduce your liability for support. But it’s difficult, as the guidelines are mandatory in the vast majority of support cases.
Therefore, in the posts to come, I’d like to discuss exactly what the law is, and in particular, how the court treats various claims of hardship in support cases. But I’d like to go further and give you some arguments you can make in court, and some long-term strategies that will help keep the money in your pocket. Stay tuned …
Very truly yours,