Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

Orange County Child Support Lawyer

Just like child custody disputes, child support can become one of the most important issues to work out between co-parents and divorcing spouses. California determines all child support with a statewide uniform guideline – an actual mathematical formula that takes into account each parent’s income and physical timeshare with their child.

When minors are involved, Orange County courts make their child support decisions based foremost on the best interests of the child. The state prefers that children’s needs are met by private resources to the greatest extent possible before resorting to government assistance.

You and your co-parent can come to an agreement over child support in accordance with California’s formula – either through mediation, negotiation, or collaboration. If you’re unable to agree, the courts will evaluate all the relevant factors and make a ruling on which parent will pay what amount. This might involve litigating the facts at issue.

Although courts have little discretion to change the state formula for child support, they have a lot of flexibility when it comes to determining the figures that influence the final dollar amount. That’s where a knowledgeable family lawyer comes in. A good Orange County child support attorney can help you successfully navigate the process and protect the best interests of you and your children.

At Moradi Saslaw, our experienced Orange County family law attorneys can help analyze you and your co-parent’s finances in order to reach a fair child support figure for your family.

How Is Child Support Determined in Orange County?

Under the law, both parents have a legal duty to support their minor children in a manner consistent with the parent’s circumstances and station in life. This responsibility extends to all minor children, no matter the parents’ marital status. The same laws and standards apply to same-sex couples as well as to non-biological and adopted children.

In addition, children of heterosexual spouses who lived together at the time of their conception and birth are presumed to be a child of the marriage. This presumption does not hold if you and your spouse were not living as husband and wife together at the time of conception.

According to California law, children are entitled to live by the same standard as the wealthier parent. That means minimizing disparities in living standards between the two homes – which could involve improving the living circumstances of the custodial parent.

Each parent is expected to pay to support their children according to their financial ability. If you and your co-parent share high levels of responsibility for your children, your child support order will be made to reflect the increased cost of raising children in two separate homes.

The amount of child support is determined by a state or county formula that takes multiple factors into account, with your child’s best interest as the top priority.

When calculating child support, Orange County courts weigh the following factors:

  • The number of children you share responsibility for
  • The child custody arrangement in place between the parents
  • The amount of time each parent spends with each of their children
  • The income or earning potential of each parent
  • The cost of health insurance and uninsured healthcare costs
  • Additional financial obligations like mandatory union dues or retirement contributions
  • Tax filing status and any deductions you take
  • Any child support paid to children from other relationships

In Orange County, basic child support covers “maintenance and education” for your children. Maintenance covers your child’s everyday living needs such as housing, food, and clothing. A parent who has primary physical custody of their child is presumed to contribute a significant part of their available resources to supporting their children.

Expenses that provide “additional support” for children usually get split 50/50 by parents unless agreed otherwise. This additional child support could cover:

  • One parent’s child care costs related to employment, education, or training
  • Uninsured healthcare expenses incurred by the children
  • The cost of educational or special needs for the children
  • Travel expenses for parental visitation

Generally, child support ends once your child turns eighteen, gets declared legally emancipated, marries, or dies. You may have to support your child past their 18th birthday if:

  • They’re still completing high school and not self-sufficient yet, or
  • They’re incapacitated with special needs that make them unable to earn a living.

Child support payments can be made directly to disabled adult children who live independently from their parents without a legal representative or guardian.

Although this formula carries a lot of weight, you can argue to the court that the outcome would be unjust or inappropriate for your particular case by showing that:

  • You and your co-spouse have agreed to a different amount of child support
  • The parent ordered to pay child support has an exceptionally high income and the amount would surpass the actual needs of their children, so the parent qualifies for the “extraordinary high earner exception.”
  • One parent fails to contribute to the children’s needs in proportion to their custody time
  • The parents share different amounts of time with different children
  • Both parents share equal time with their children but one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income going towards housing
  • Your children have special medical or other needs
  • Your children have more than two parents
  • Excluding the income of either parent’s subsequent spouse or nonmarital partner from the equation would lead to severe or extreme hardship for the child
  • One parent voluntarily or intentionally quits their job to reduce their income while they rely on their subsequent spouse’s income

Unlike spousal support, child support payments are neither tax-deductible for the paying parent nor taxable for the receiving parent. In some situations, a spouse or co-parent may be granted family support, which is a combination of child and spousal support. Family support is tax-deductible and must be paid according to Internal Revenue Code rules.

In the case of a spouse who remains under-employed in order to reduce the amount of child support they must pay, the court will base its calculations on their earning potential.

But if one parent is experiencing severe financial hardship from justifiable expenses, courts may allow them to take income deductions to properly reflect their circumstances. This could happen if they’re facing extraordinary medical expenses or other uninsured catastrophic losses. They may also qualify for hardship if much of their income goes towards taking care of living expenses for children they must support from other relationships.

Is Orange County Child Support Based on Gross or Net Income?

California child support payments are calculated based on each parent’s “adjusted” net disposable income. This income figure is calculated by taking your pre-tax annual gross income and subtracting any allowable deductions.

Your gross income could include various sources of money such as your salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, royalties, unemployment benefits, rental income, and business income.

Your “gross income” could even include employee or self-employment benefits that reduce your living expenses, such as free or subsidized employee housing. It can also include stock options that you have not exercised if you are holding onto them to evade child support. As long as you would have incurred an expense with or without employment, the employee benefit counts as income. For example, you would have to eat lunch every day regardless of employment status. So the value of free lunch at work would count as an employee benefit and included as income.

Allowable deductions tend to be specific and narrow. For example, courts have held that depreciation of rental income does not count as a deduction when calculating child support because it doesn’t actually affect a parent’s ability to meet child support obligations.

Is There a Cap on Child Support in Orange County?

California has no cap or limit on the amount of child support you might have to pay.

In fact, courts can overrule any agreements you may have made to cap child support. This is because a child’s best interests are paramount. If the child qualifies for greater child support, that trounces any agreements made by the parents to limit the amount.

Do You Still Have to Pay Child Support With 50/50 Custody?

The answer depends, but yes – you may still have to pay child support to your spouse even if you share 50/50 joint custody of your children. This is because California requires children to have the same standard of living as the wealthiest parent.

That means if one parent is significantly wealthier than the other, their child support payments could be used to improve the other custodial parent’s living situation, so they benefit incidentally. A custodial parent doesn’t necessarily have to spend every dollar of child support directly on the child – the law assumes that the child benefits from the money spent on the household.

Extreme wealth can present significant issues in child support cases. High-earners may have exceptions to the statutory formula set, however, it is imperative that the exception be negotiated and agreed to, or ordered by the court, prior to receiving the high income. For this reason, high earners need to seek out the counsel of a family lawyer who has experience handling high-net-worth cases.

Can You Negotiate a Child Support Agreement in Orange County?

Yes – you and your co-parent can negotiate a child support agreement on your own terms. However, a negotiated agreement must abide by California’s child support standards and rules.

First, any child support agreement you negotiate must not fall below the amount calculated by the state formula unless all of the following are true:

  • Both parents are fully informed of their rights around child support,
  • The agreement is established without coercion or distress,
  • The agreement is in the best interests of the children involved,
  • The needs of your children will be properly met by the amount in the agreement, and
  • You have no open governmental assistance applications for child support.

You can always agree to more child support than the court’s formula. You can also negotiate over other aspects of your child arrangement, such as:

  • Which parent will have primary physical custody
  • One parent paying a larger proportion of child support than the other
  • One parent paying a greater percentage of additional child support costs
  • Spending different amounts of time with each of your children
  • Agreeing to provide support for your adult children.

The courts will continue to prioritize the best interests of your child. So if any of your agreements present a detriment to your children later on, or there has been a change of circumstance, the court is likely to modify its order.

How Can You Modify a Child Support Order in Orange County?

Circumstances change all the time. You may have moved, left your job, or found new work. Your children have likely grown out of certain needs and developed new necessities. It’s no surprise then that child support order modifications are quite common in California.

You can modify your child support order if your change in circumstances affects either the support you owe or your ability to pay. That could include the following situations:

  • A change in how much time your child spends with each parent
  • A change in income, assets, or debts for either parent
  • Changes to the child’s financial needs, such as new medical expenses
  • Any hardships or significant losses suffered by either parent
  • Changes in tax filing status or deductions for either parent
  • Either parent going into retirement

A modification can help your custody order better reflect you and your co-parent’s standards of living as well as equalize the standards between the households.

An experienced and diligent child support lawyer can help you navigate California’s complex statutory formula for a successful outcome to your case. With the proper legal knowledge and expertise, a good family lawyer can recognize the most important issues in your case. Your attorney can also help minimize any issues that work against you.

You want the best for your children. A child support order must correctly reflect the financial realities of you and your co-parent along with the needs of your children. At Moradi Saslaw, our lawyers are particularly knowledgeable in handling high-net-worth child support cases in Orange County, which present a unique set of challenges that an unseasoned attorney could miss. We cover all your bases so that you can move forward with a successful outcome.

Call our Orange County child support attorneys now at (949) 688-8880 or use our contact form.