Fair and just child support awards are essential to the maintenance of families and getting children's basic needs met. It is important that custodial parents who have been awarded child support actually receive the amounts ordered, and that parents who have been ordered to pay support are left with enough money in their households to actually make the payments. At the Spiekerman Law Offices we make sure that Family Courts have all the relevant information to ensure that your family is treated appropriately.
California uses a guideline formula in fixing child support obligations. Because the formula begins with gross income numbers, which must be adjusted for tax effects (so that support is based on the net income that is left over after taxes are paid), support is determined by using various computer programs.
Guideline support depends almost entirely upon income and ignores all but certain expenses (it counts health insurance premiums, union dues, and child support paid for children of other relationships, for instance). Your personal expenses such as credit card payments, utilities, or even the bills that you are left to pay after the other party leaves the relationship are not considered. Most courts will factor in mortgage payments, but if you are a payor parent this will increase the amounts you pay because the interest write-off for a portion of the mortgage payments results in tax deduction that gives you more net spendable income.
Child Support calculations also factor in the custodial time factor. California's state public policy espouses that parents have frequent and continuing contact with their children. This is reinforced by calculating the amount of support to be paid for the time that the non-custodial parent spends with the children. The inverse relationship of these two factors is that higher parenting time with the children results in a lower child support payment.
As a practical matter many family court commissioners treat certain entries, or refusals to enter information, into the guideline equation as discretionary even if they arguable are not left to the court's discretion. This can have a significant impact on the amount of the child support that is ordered, and is one of the reasons why it is important to have an experienced and competent child support attorney assisting you: As an unrepresented party you just cannot be expected to know what to say to the judge.
A major area of dispute in setting child support awards is the amount of income that is attributed to each party. Particularly with parents who are self-employed, or employed by family members, getting to the bottom of a party's true income stream requires an understanding of where and how to look. Similarly, where one parent refuses to work altogether or claims that work is not available, it requires an attorney who understands the process and law of evidence to submit information that is necessary and in proper form to the Court so that income can be imputed - meaning the party is treated as though they were receiving an amount of money that they may not in fact be getting.
Where parties have investment assets that are not income producing, or minimally income producing, like unimproved land or large amounts of cash sitting in a money market account, which is returning highly conservative returns, courts may impute a higher rate of return than what is being received and so increase child support beyond what would otherwise be ordered. However, this may not happen if you know how to present the argument to the Court.
We believe that parties always benefit from experienced child support counsel and that going it alone usually leads to unsatisfactory results. Allow us to assist you in achieving the best results for your children and your new family.
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