Child Support

What is Child Support

Child support is money that one parent pays to the other parent for the support of the children. It is usually the parent that has less time with the children (the non-custodial parent) that pays child support to the other parent (the custodial parent).

There are only two factors considered for child support purposes. They are the time that the parents spend with the children, called time share, and the income of the parents. But do note, a parent cannot avoid paying child support by voluntarily quitting his/her job.  If one parent is unemployed or underemployed by choice, the court will consider what that parent should be earning. This is called earning capacity, And in cases where the court finds that one of the parents quit his/her job just to avoid paying child support, the court can set child support based upon what the parent should be or could be earning (earning capacity).

Parental Obligations

There is a law in the State of California that both parents are obligated to support their children. However, this does not mean that both parents have to pay the same amount. Instead, the amount paid will depend upon how much money each parent earns and how much time each parent spends with the children.

The Child Support Formula or Guideline

There is a formula that is used based upon time share and earnings. The formula is called the State Child Support Guideline and in all cases a computer is used to figure out the amount to be paid.

Can parents agree to a child support amount? Yes, but the court will look at the agreement toward making sure the amount to be paid is a reasonable amount, that the children will be adequately cared for and that the County is not providing money to one of the parents for the support of the children.

Finally, although child support is paid, the child or children are not entitled to be given this money. Nor is the parent receiving the child support obligated to account for the child support money. As long as the child is cared for, the parent receiving the child support will not have to make any accounting of the money received as child support.

Calculating the Amount of Child Support

As noted above, the child support formula is very complicated. It takes a computer to make the calculations. Most courthouses provide computers for everyone to use for this purpose. Additionally, there are many websites that provide this same service for no cost. At present, this website is not providing this service.

Custody

There are six kinds of custody:

  1. Joint custody means joint physical custody and joint legal custody.
  2. Legal custody is the right to make decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the children.
  3. Sole legal custody occurs when one parent has the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
  4. Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
  5. Sole physical custody means a child resides with and is under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation. If a parent has sole physical custody, then the children live primarily with that parent and the other parent has visitation rights.
  6. Joint physical custody means that each parent has significant periods of physical custody. Custody must be shared by the parents to ensure a child receives frequent and continuing contact with both parents. 

Joint Legal Custody is the Norm

In California, most courts grant parents joint legal custody, unless there is a very good reason why a court should not make this order. However, just because a judge grants joint legal custody, the judge is under no obligation to grant joint physical custody. If there is no previous custody order in place, the judge will look at what is in the “best interests” of the child or children. However, if there is a previous order regarding custody, a judge will not change that order unless there is a very good reason to do so.

No Changes in Custody if a Final Agreement

Also, as noted above, judges are unlikely to change custody from one parent to the other unless there is a good reason to do so. So what qualifies as a good reason? Endangering a child’s life by not providing adequate supervision can qualify as a good reason. Or maybe hiding the child so that the other parent cannot have any time with the children. Both parents should have time with the child and if one parent refuses to share and the other does share, the judge will consider switching custody. Not feeding a child dinner because he misbehaves will not, in most cases be a reason to change custody. Changes in custody are rare occurrences.

No Jury in Family Court

Note that if the parents cannot make an agreement regarding custody of their children, a judge will make the decision. And there is no jury in family court.

Family Court Services

Finally, when there is a custody dispute, the parents must meet with a counselor from Family Court Services. Family Court Services is the court’s mediation service. A counselor meets with parents and tries to get the parents to reach an agreement. If the parents do not make an agreement regarding custody of their children, then the evaluator will make a written recommendation to the court. Note however, a judge is under no obligation to follow such a recommendation.

Visitation

In any situation where parents are separating, they need a custody and visitation agreement.  If they do not make such an agreement, then they can meet with a counselor Family Court Services. Family Court Services is the court’s mediation service. If the parents do not reach an agreement, then the counselor will make a written recommendation to the court. However, a judge does not have to follow the recommendation of the counselor.

There are some standard visitation schedules. However, the best schedule is one where both parents get some quality time with their children. Many parents know about 80-20 visitation. This is where one parent has the children for 80% of the time and the other parent has 20%. However, the current move is away from set percentage visitation. The current move is toward quality visitation time.

Finally, a word about grandparent visitation. The current law is it is assumed that grandparent visitation is not in the best interests of the children. A grandparent must prove that it is in the children’s best interest in THEIR case. Usually this entails the grandparent having a substantial relationship with the children for most of their lives.

When Parents Cannot Agree on Custody and/or Visitation

If parents cannot agree as to custody and visitation of their children, then they can meet with a counselor from Family Court Services. The counselor will try to help the parents reach a custody and/or visitation agreement.  If they are divorcing and they cannot agree, then they MUST meet with a counselor from Family Court Services. Custody or visitation disputes require the setting of a Family Court Services date upon filing the paperwork. In most cases a judge will not make a decision regarding custody or visitation until after the couple has met with a mediation counselor.

Where to Get More Information About Child Support & Custody of Children

California Family Law 2021 Edition by LW Greenberg Esq

 

More information about custody and child support is available by purchasing LW Greenberg’s California Family Law 2021 Edition. Click here to purchase on amazon.com.

For more information regarding this book, click here.

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