Each parent has a duty to financially support their child or children. In a divorce, separation, or parentage action, the Court will quantify this duty in the form of a child support order. Child support is financial payments ordered for the maintenance and care of your child while in the other parties’ care. Child support is based on a mathematical calculation that results in what is known as “guideline child support.”
The three main factors that the Court will look at with guideline child support are:
- Your income
- The other parent’s income
- The custodial schedule
Other factors can impact the guideline support amount, but these three factors provide the foundation for support. Therefore, making sure you have an accurate and complete “Income & Expense Declaration” is very important when you file for child support. The court will ask for the last two months of pay stubs if you are a W-2 employee and if you are self-employed, either your last two years of profit and loss statements or your Schedule C/K-1. However, you should make sure they reflect an accurate financial situation.
Once the Court orders child support, either after a hearing or a stipulation is reached between you and the other parent, child support will continue until the respective child marries, dies, is emancipated, reaches 19, or reaches 18 and is not a full-time high school student residing with a parent, whichever first occurs. Family Code §3901. A child support order is always modifiable. It can be modified when there is any kind of change of circumstances such as a change in earnings, a change in employment, or a change in the timeshare.
If you and your co-parent can reach an agreement for child support that differs from guideline child support, whether it be for less than guideline child support or for additional child support to help cover other costs, you can do that. However, the Court can only issue an order that differs from guideline child support orders if the parties agree or in exceptional circumstances. See Family Code § 4057. Exceptional circumstances to make a below or above guideline support order, include a finding by the preponderance of the evidence demonstrating one of the following:
- The parent paying support has an extraordinarily high income and the needs of the children are not being met by the guideline support order.
- An adjustment of support if the sale of the family residence is delayed and the children are living in the home which has a rental value above the combined cost of the mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes.
- Third parent cases.
- When a child has special medical or other needs.
Guideline child support is only the initial base child support order. Other child support orders regarding the health insurance coverage and child support add-ons are also considered and can be made. See Family Code § 4062. One mandatory child support add-on is the division of reasonable unreimbursed/uninsured health care costs. The standard division of financial responsibility is for each parent to be responsible for one-half the cost; however, there are times when that division may shift. For example, if you take your child to the doctor and there is a $20 copay followed by a prescription for $10, for a total of $30, each parent will be responsible for $15. If you have an order for mandatory child support add-ons of childcare costs or unreimbursed medical expenses, you will want to ensure you follow the requirements of noticing the party within the ordered timeframe of the expense incurred and providing them with a copy of the receipt and proof of payment to ensure you preserve your reimbursement request should they fail to pay their responsibility. The specific notice requirements per the Code can be found in discussed on Judicial Council Form FL-192.
If you have questions about your child support orders, or how to modify them, we are ready to help. Call the experienced family law attorney at Moore Law for Children to schedule a consultation to discuss your goals and strategies.