Let a Irvine Child Support Lawyer Resolve Your Concerns
When going through a divorce or separation with children in California, addressing child support is a necessary part of the process. Parents have a legal obligation to provide for their minor children’s financial needs and establishing child support during the divorce or separation process ensures that each parent has a clear understanding of his or her financial responsibility. California’s Child Support Guidelines establish the presumptive requirements for parents in Orange County and, while this will be all that some parents can afford to pay, there are various circumstances under which divorcing and separating parents may agree to pay more, or the court may order less. There are other related considerations to address as well and working with an Irvine child support lawyer will allow you to make informed decisions about each of the issues involved.
Understanding Parents’ Child Support Obligations in California
California’s Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) are designed to ensure that parents continue to provide financial support for their children post-separation or post-divorce consistent with their ability to pay. The Guidelines factor in the parents’ income from all sources, their respective custody rights, and certain deductible expenses to arrive at a fixed monthly payment that must be paid until each child reaches the age of majority. Traditionally, the non-custodial parent has paid child support to the custodial parent; and, although this still occurs in many cases, non-traditional parenting time arrangements may call for a different outcome.
The Guidelines factor in income from all sources, with only very limited exceptions. In fact, as discussed below, income can even be imputed to divorcing and separating parents in some cases. Sources of income that are considered in determining parents’ child support obligations in Orange County include:
- Wages, salary and commissions
- Pensions and annuities
- Business and self-employment income
- Interest, dividends and other investment income
- Unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits
- Social Security benefits
- Other income “from whatever source derived” (excluding child support payments from a prior relationship and needs-based public assistance)
Expenses that are deducted from parents’ gross income in order to determine their ability to pay child support include:
- State and federal taxes
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) withholdings and contributions
- Mandatory retirement contributions
- Union dues
- Certain other job-related expenses
- Health insurance premiums
- Any child and spousal support obligations from prior relationships
Common Issues Related to Establishing Child Support in Orange County
While calculating a monthly payment amount based on a set of statutory guidelines may seem like a straightforward process, there are a number of issues that can lead to complications during a divorce or separation. In order to ensure that you arrive at an accurate obligation amount and do not overlook any child-related financial issues, it is important that you work with an Irvine child support lawyer who is experienced in helping parents navigate all aspects of the divorce or separation process. For example, issues that can complicate the process include:
1. Identifying All Sources of Income
By law, parents are required to disclose their income sources as part of the divorce process. However, parents do not always comply with this requirement; and, whether your spouse inadvertently omits information or intentionally attempts to conceal one or more sources of income, acting on incomplete information will almost certainly lead to an inaccurate result. Our Irvine child support lawyers utilize various forensic and legal methods to ensure that our clients have all access to all of the financial information to which they are legally entitled.
In some cases, it can be difficult to accurately calculate a parent’s income even when complete information is available. This is most common in cases involving business owners and parents who are self-employed. But, here too, there are methods and strategies available, and our child support lawyers can ensure that you arrive at an accurate child support calculation.
2. Dealing with Intentional Unemployment or Underemployment
Unfortunately, in some cases parents will attempt to avoid incurring a legal obligation to pay child support (or attempt to increase their spouse’s or partner’s payment obligation) by intentionally remaining unemployed or underemployed. In this type of scenario, it may be possible to impute income to the non-earning or under-earning parent, meaning that child support will be calculated based on the parent’s ability to earn rather than his or her actual income. Once again, this is a challenging scenario that will generally require the assistance of experienced legal counsel.
3. Addressing College Tuition and Expenses Outside of Child Support
In California, parents have an obligation to support their children through age 18 (or age 19, if they are still in high school). This means that they typically do not have an obligation to fund their children’s higher education. However, many parents understandably still wish to address college tuition and expenses during their divorce or separation.
Although college tuition and expenses are not covered by child support, parents can address them through various other means. For example, one option is for parents to agree that they will each contribute a minimum amount to their children’s higher education costs – whether through a 529 savings plan or another savings vehicle. Alternatively, parents may choose to establish a trust at the time of their divorce or separation that sets aside funds that can only be accessed by their children for education-related needs.