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Unlike issues in most Family Law matters, the issue of child support is rather rigidly defined. Whether you are navigating your way through a divorce, a legal separation, a paternity action, or trying to modify an existing child support order, the amount you pay or receive in support is dictated by the child support “guideline” established by the California State Legislature, and set forth in California’s Family Code.
Both parents have a co-equal responsibility to provide financial support to the children. Guideline child support payments are generally based on factors including, but not limited to, number of children, gross income of each parent, and the percentage of parenting time each parent enjoys with the children. In general terms, if you are the paying parent, the more time your child spends with you in accordance with the parenting plan, the less support you may be required to pay. The opposite is also true – the less time the parent receiving child support spends with the child, the lower the support he or she will receive. Additionally, the court ordinarily orders each parent to pay one-half of any work-related daycare incurred by either parent, and one-half of any medical costs not covered by insurance. While both parents are expected to contribute financially to the direct support of the children, only one parent will actually be required to make a guideline child support payment to the other parent on a monthly basis. The other parent, most often the primary residential parent, will be responsible for the day-to-day management and expenditures associated with support of the children.
Some parents also agree on additional child support “add-ons.” Commonly agreed upon add-ons include extracurricular activity expenses, school tuition, travel expenses and any other expense associated with raising children. These expenses may or may not be ordered by the judge depending on the financial circumstances of the parents.
While the child support guideline is mandatory, exceptions to the imposition of a guideline order do exist in the Family Code that can have a significant impact on the amount of child support awarded. If you are subject to, or expect to be subject to a child support award, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that you and your children are being treated appropriately under the law.
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