How is the amount of child support determined?
In California, child support is determined by a calculation of the parents’ incomes, how much time each parent spends with the child or children, and any tax deductions that are available to either parent. This is called “guideline” support.
Judges are usually required to order the guideline level of child support unless there are special circumstances which would make the application of the guideline amount unfair or unreasonable. These situations include:
- The parent ordered to pay child support has a very high income and the child support calculated would exceed the child’s needs
- A parent would not be contributing financially for the children at a level commensurate with the custodial time of that parent
- Where both parents have equal parenting time and one parent has a much higher or lower percentage of income used for housing than the other parent
- Where the children have special medical or other needs that could require child support to be greater than the formula amount
- Cases in which a child is found to have more than two parents
Parents can also agree on their own child support figures, that are different from the guideline formula, so long as the amount is also approved by a Judge.
Is it possible to change the support amount over time?
Yes! It is possible for child support amounts to either increase or decrease. This usually happens when there has been a significant or noticeable change in circumstances in the life of either the parents, the child or both. Common circumstances include a change in either parties’ income, the amount of time that either party spends with the child, or the needs of the child.
This means if the parent paying support loses his or her job, the court may allow them to pay less support, or sometimes even no support, until they find a new position. On the other hand, if the parent receiving child support loses their job, the other parent may have to pay more support to help cover the child’s expenses. Likewise, if a parent receiving child support earns a raise or a higher paying position, the support obligation of the parent paying child support may decrease.
Child support amounts may also be modified along with custody changes. For example, if parent A has custody of the children 40% of the time, and pays child support to parent B, the amount of child support that he pays may decrease if his custody increases to 50%. As we mentioned above, this is because the timeshare for each parent is part of the child support “guideline” formula.
Lastly, a child support amount could change when the needs of the child change, which could include things such as expenses for schooling or medical attention.
In all of these cases, the support amount can only change with a court order. If you believe you should be receiving more or paying less support, you must petition the court with this request and have it granted by a judge. You cannot simply start paying less on your own without going back to court first.
If I am paying child support, will the amount I have to pay change if I remarry or have another child?
In most cases, a paying parent’s remarriage will not directly affect the child support amount. California judges are not legally allowed to look at the new spouse’s income, unless there are extraordinary circumstances in which the child is not being adequately supported based on their parent’s income alone. This may also occur when the remarried parent decides to quit their job and relies solely on the new spouse’s income.
If the new marriage results in more children, the court will not allow the new expenses acquired by voluntarily having more kids to decrease child support obligation from the previous relationship. However, a general increase in household expenses may be a reason for child support to decrease.
If I am receiving child support, will the amount I receive from the other parent change if I remarry or have another child?
If you are the parent receiving child support and you remarry, it is possible that your new partner’s income will have an impact on how much support you receive, particularly if your new spouse pays for living expenses related to your child or reduces your actual living expenses in noticeable or significant way. This does not mean child support will be terminated (as it may with spousal support), but it could be reduced if the paying parent petitions the court on the issue. Having another child in a new marriage will very a rarely affect the child support amount.