Family Code Section 3900 codifies the general obligation of both parents to support their minor children “in the manner suitable to the child’s circumstances.” The obligation is gender-neutral. Even same-sex partners may be a child’s parents, both of whom owe a child support duty. All minor children of the parents are owed a statutory duty of support. The obligation is not tied to the parent’s marital status; nor is it limited to biological offspring.
This general obligation is also reflected in a statement of legislative intent regarding application of the statewide uniform child support guideline:
(a) “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.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(a)]
(c) “The guidelines takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(c)]
(d) “Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability [Fam. Code Section 4053(d)]
(e) “The guideline seeks to place the interests of the children as the state’s top priority.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(e)]
(f) “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.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(f)]
(g) “Child support orders in cases in which both parents have high levels of responsibility for the children should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and should minimize significant disparities in the children’s living standards in two homes.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(g)]
(h) “The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(h)]
(i) “The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(i)]
(j) “The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(j)]
(k) “The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(k)]
(l) “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.” [Fam. Code Section 4053(l)]
That family law code seems simple enough. However, under California’s guidelines, child support is calculated using a complex computer program called DissoMaster. The DissoMaster considers both parent’s incomes, the number of children, time spent with each parent and other factors. The DissoMaster only calculates the children’s daily living expenses for child support award. In addition, the Judge can order additional support if needed to cover other expenses such as child care, special education, health insurance, special activities and other items. To calculate child support, besides wages, the court can consider other sources of income such as dividends, oil and gas royalties, stocks and bonds, rents, worker’s compensation, disability and unemployment benefits. If the paying parent is unemployed and has no other income, until the parent is able to modify (see below) the child support order, payments will still be due and the parent’s support payments will be arrearages and still be due.
The judge may decide that income should be “imputed” despite the fact that the paying parent does not have any actual income. The court can attribute income to the paying spouse based on that parent’s earning capacity and ability. “Imputed” income can be applied to under-employed parents as well.
To assist the court, each parent must complete an Income and Expense Declaration and file that form with any request for child support or in response to a request for child support. Chick for a Income and Expense Declaration Form
Then the figures in the Income and Expense Declaration and the child custody time are inserted into the computer program which most family law attorneys and the courts possess to arrive at a figure. The dispute arises as to what figures to insert into the computer program, called DissoMaster. This amazing program even takes into consideration the tax obligations of the parties and computes the child support according to guidelines. Click for the California Child and Spousal Support Calculator.
IMPORTANT: a father or mother usually cannot waive child support. The child support is considered for the betterment of the child, not the parent.
At the mediation, the parties’ attorneys are usually not present. If domestic violence is an issue, then the parties can meet one at a time with the mediator. Even though domestic violence is an issue with a parent, usually domestic violence does not affect the parent from visiting with the child/ren. The mediator will look at the parent’s work schedules, prior caring arrangements, availability of relatives in the care of the child/ren and any other factor related to the children. If possible, the mediator will write an agreement for the parties to sign which the judge usually approves and makes an order of the court or if no agreement, the mediator will indicate that on a form and send the form to the judge. There are many reasons why the couple cannot reach an agreement. Each couple’s DNA is different. Mediation is a very time-consuming process for which the judges do not have time.
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Wage assignments can be ordered by the court so that the child support can be deducted from the parent’s wages. If the parent does not have wages but owns a business, profession or other means of support, then the collection of child support can get difficult.
If one of the parents does not pay child support, then the State of California, Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) can provide public child support enforcement to collect child support. They can garnish wages, tax refunds, bank accounts, etc. Click for the Child Support Handbook
In addition, a party may file contempt charges (semi-criminal) charges against the other parent if the child support is not paid. Usually a parent does not want to go to jail for not paying child support.
If child support is not paid, then the interest rate due accumulates at the rate of 10% per annum.
As stated above, the child support order remains in effect until modified BY THE COURT.
With the change in child custody, loss of job or other factors, the child support amount may change.
Frazee Law Group has the DissoMaster program and can calculate how much child support will be required to be paid. Most importantly, Frazee Law Group can compel the other parent to reveal his/her real income. Falsification of income is common in child support cases.