You would think that when a court makes orders regarding child support that it will automatically be calculated correctly. And, in most cases it probably is, but in some it’s not.
I’ve come across far too many cases lately that have miscalculated child support and the person paying or receiving child support had no idea. So, how does this happen?
Child support is generally calculated using California state guidelines. In essence, California has a “calculation system” that requires input of specific figures such as your income, the amount of time you spend with your child, and certain expenses. Once this information is input into the calculator, a child support figure is displayed and that’s the amount that will be paid.
The problem with the child support calculator is that sometimes the information input is incorrect or it’s simply not input with your best interest in mind. If the other party’s attorney inputs the calculations, trust me, they will not tell you about deductions or adjustments that may apply to your case, because their primary goal is to do what’s best for their client.
If the department of child support services is involved in your case, their primary focus is on what the state guideline considers is “in the best interest of your child,” notwithstanding how that affects you as your child’s parent. (i.e., if the calculator says that you should pay $1,000/mo. In child support, that may be ordered without looking at your extenuating circumstances). Quite frankly, they could care-less about what’s best for you. So, if you are representing yourself, you must make sure to advocate for yourself.
Child support is determined on a case by case basis, so it’s impossible to explain every single thing you need to look out for. However, here are a few things to keep in mind.
When you receive the printout that outlines your child support, you can see all of the figures that were input. It’s important to review all of the figures to make sure everything is correct and to be aware of other factors the court may consider IF brought to its attention. Specifically, double-check the following:
Was your income calculated correctly?
-How was your income input?
-Did the court consider just your base salary or was one-time bonus money also included?
If bonus money that was earned only once was included in your usual monthly income, then you could be paying more or receiving less than you should.
Is the other party’s income calculated correctly?
-If the other party has no income, was their income input as “0”?
Did you know that in many cases, if the other party has the ABILITY to work (there is no disability or justifiable reason that they aren’t employed), the court may impute an income of at least minimum wage to them, even if they don’t currently have a job? (more often than not, you must specifically request this).
Is your timeshare input correctly?
-Do you know the percent of time you spend with your children?
-Make sure that you get credit for any days that you are responsible for the care of your children.
-Also, don’t forget about the holidays, summer vacations, spring breaks, and other extended time you spend with your children; that time counts and is often omitted.
Did you get credit for all qualifying expenses?
There are some expenses that can be put into the calculator. Union dues, health insurance premiums, child support that you pay for other children, etc. are just a few. So make sure you know what expenses can be included and that they are input.
In addition to the standard calculation system, there are several other things the court can consider when it comes to making child support. For example:
- If you make below a certain amount, you may qualify for a low income adjustment
- If you have other children that live with you, you may qualify for a child support adjustment that considers that other child
- If you have any major medical expenses or other hardships, you may qualify for a hardship
- If the other parent has bonus income or makes commission, the court can consider it and make a separate order that outlines a certain percent of that income that must be paid towards support.
Child support is a very specialized area of law. Not surprisingly, when parents aren’t represented or at least consulting with knowledgeable and skilled family law attorneys, they are often left paying or receiving support substantially lower or higher than they should. And to make matters worse, the longer an incorrect amount is in effect, the more time consuming and expensive it is to correct it after the fact. So, if you’re not going to work with an attorney, it’s important to get a clear understanding of the child support laws and process and make sure it’s calculated right the first time and avoid unnecessary problems.
For more information on child support laws, download the child support handbook here FREE.
If you want to play around with the child support calculator, check it out here.
Know someone else who may be paying or receiving child support in California? Please share this article with them…you never know, it may help them out tremendously.