Understanding Child Support
Child support is a payment made by the parent who has the child or children for the least amount of time to the other parent to help care for and support the child. It is tax-free, however child support payments are not tax deductible by the parent who is making the payments.
What Child Support Covers
Child support is intended to help with a child’s living expenses. This will include items such as:
- Personal care items
- School supplies
It may also include the additional living space the custodial parent needs to pay in order to house the child (i.e. a parent has to have a two bedroom apartment instead of one because the child is living with them).
Some other additional expenses which may be included are:
- Uncovered health care needs
Extracurricular activities, however, are typically not included. If your child is interested in an extracurricular activity, then both parties must consent. If one party does not consent, then the other must pay for the activity and only enroll the child in an activity that is occurring during their time with the child.
The Length of Child Support
In the state of California, child support continues until the child graduates from high school or until the child turns 19, whichever is sooner.
If you have a child with severe disabilities, however, these rules change. Child support may continue on for the duration of your disabled child’s life.
Determining Who Pays Child Support
Child support is typically determined in one of two ways:
- Both parties agree to an amount and payment schedule (if any)
- Both parties go to court
If both parties choose to go to court, they will take what is known as “DissoMaster” support. This type of support considers the incomes of both parties, the custodial timeshare, the healthcare of the child and the tutoring of the child care that a party wants the court to consider when making a child support order.
Even if both parents share equal time with a child, keep in mind that the court takes both parties incomes into account. If one parent makes less than another, the higher income earning parent will likely be ordered to pay child support.
The goal of child support is to equalize the two homes in which your children will be residing. This is so that both homes have the similar abilities to provide for a child so that the children will not feel compelled to stay at one home more often because of the greater assets available to them.
It is also important to note that stepparents are never obligated to support their stepson or stepdaughter unless the stepparent legally adopts the child.
Changes in a Child Support Agreement
Your child support agreement is not set in stone. A variety of factors may come into play and be considered should you wish to modify a child support agreement.
Parents can largely leave the courts out of their child support discussions if they are able to reach an agreement to modify the terms of their child support agreement. If both parties can agree, then all that is necessary is for a judge to sign off on their agreement.
If both parties cannot agree to a modified amount, then a parent may need to go to court and explain the nature of their change in circumstances. A court may then choose to make a temporary or permanent modification.
Some scenarios where a child support agreement may be temporarily modified include:
- The child is facing a medical emergency
- A parent is facing a temporary medical or financial hardship
- The payer is temporarily unable to pay (i.e. because of an illness, a medical emergency, etc.)
An agreement may be permanently modified if:
- A parent loses their job or changes to a new job with a much higher or much lower income
- A parent remarries and the new spouse’s income significantly raises that household’s income
- One or both parents become disabled
- The needs of the child change significantly
- There is an increase in the cost of living
- Child support laws change
A permanent modification will remain in effect until either:
- Support is no longer required; or
- The order is modified at a later time because of another change in circumstances
Do not delay in modifying an order, particularly if you are facing financial hardship. Any payments which go unpaid become “arrears” which can lead to negative consequences.
How We Can Help
Lavinsky Law prides itself on being transparent and providing parties with everything they need to know before they make a decision about how they choose to proceed. Clients leave our office knowing how we can help and they understand the benefits and the drawbacks of going to court.
Our expert child support attorneys in Los Angeles provide our prospective and retained clients with information about the importance of establishing a custody plan, how it impacts child support, and how much both parties may be expected to pay.
Our goal is for you to leave our office knowing what you are entitled to, and whether or not you should proceed with a court hearing.
If you are facing a child support issue or have questions about modifying a current agreement, we are here to help because Brighter Days Are Ahead with the appropriate representation.
Call us today to arrange for your consultation at (310) 274-2717.