Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce law can be a complex topic for those unfamiliar with the field. At the law firm of Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP, we have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that you are familiar with each issue that arises in a divorce.

Child Support

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How is Child Support Calculated?

Child Support Photo for Blog Attorney Michael Fischer

 Mike’s Answer:

A divorce is complicated enough on its own, but when children are thrown into the mix, the emotional and financial elements are heightened even more. If you’re going through a divorce, both parties might be wondering how much their child support payments are going to be. In California, child support payments are determined by complex guidelines that take into account both parents’ incomes, tax deductions, and how much time each parent spends with the children. The final amount is calculated using a very complex algebraic formula.

Calculations & Guidelines

The complex child support guidelines are used to do two main things: to provide a minimum level of support for the children, and to create standardized guidelines for calculating child support in other cases. For example, Family Code Section 4053 sets forth the statewide uniform guidelines, which include some of the following principles:

  • A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
  • Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
  • The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the child.
  • Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
  • Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
  • Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.

Essentially, the wellbeing of the children is the top priority when determining the amount of child support payments.

Deviations and Exceptions

In the event that the calculated amount should be lower or higher than stated, California law has allowed for deviations and exceptions from the guidelines. Such exceptions include prior agreed amounts (as long as it is appropriate), if the obligator’s income is very high and the support amount would exceed the needs of the children, or if the obligator has a financial hardship, then the court can lower the overall support amount. To get an idea of how much your child support payment will be, visit California’s Department of Child Support Servicers, which provides a handy child support calculator.

Can parents create their own agreement for child support?

Attorney Michael Fischer

 Mike’s Answer:

Yes, parents can stipulate their own agreement regarding child support, but it must be approved by the court. In order for the court to consider reviewing the agreement, it must meet the following guidelines:

  1. There must already be an open court case between the parents.
  2. The agreement must contain the following information:
    1. Each parent is fully aware of his/her child support rights.
    2. Each parent is aware of what the guideline child support amount would be.
    3. Neither parent is feeling pressured or forced to agree on the stated amount.
    4. Neither parent is receiving public assistance or has applied for public assistance.
    5. Both parents think that the agreed upon amount is in the best interest of the child.

After you have reached an agreement with the other parent and have created a stipulation consistent with these guidelines, you will both need to sign the document. If you do not have attorneys, your signatures will need to be notarized. You can then submit the stipulation for the court’s review. If you have a court date scheduled, you can bring the stipulation with you to the hearing for the judge’s review and signature, or you can go to the courthouse and ask to speak with a family law clerk to get it approved and signed. After you have received the judge’s signature, you’ll need to file the original with the court clerk, and serve a file-stamped copy of the order on the other parent (or their attorney, if they have one.)