FAQ: Child Support in California

child support in CaliforniaWhen raising a child on your own, you may need financial support. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions asked about child support in California. Call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today to learn more.

Q. How is child support in California determined?

California’s statewide guideline dictates the formula to calculate child support. The court calculates it using the following criteria:

  • Number of children,
  • Parents individual income,
  • Each parent’s custody time with the child,
  • Tax filing status, and
  • Individual parent’s tax-deductible expenses.

Q.  Is there a limit or cap on the amount of child support in California that the Court can order?

California does not limit or cap the amount of support the court orders. In most cases, the guideline’s calculation is presumptively a legal calculation. There are, however, instances when a judge will deviate from the calculation.

Q.  What if the calculation generates an child support amount that is more than necessary to support a child?

Determining the necessary amount to support a child differ on a case-by-case basis. The law states that children are entitled to a similar lifestyle to their parents. Thus, the court often upholds the child support in California that improves the lower-income parent’s lifestyle. The court may deviate from the child support guidelines when the excessive child support amount does not bear a reasonable relationship to the:

  • Lifestyle of either parents, or
  • Amount needed to rear a child consistent with that lifestyle.

Q.  What if the child support in California is enough to support both the child and the former spouse?

This happens when one parent’s income is significant. The law permits the child to be raised in a lifestyle consistent with what the higher-earning parent could provide. Courts will uphold child support payments that bolstered the former spouse’s socio-economic standing (e.g. better housing).

Q. What income is included in the child support calculation?

The Family Code provides that child support in California considers all sources of income, such as:

  • Earned income from employment
  • Recurring interest or investment income
  • Cash flow from a business

Courts will not solely rely on what the parent reports on a income tax return. People are known to run personal expenses through a business as a business deduction. When this occurs, then for the purpose of calculating child support, the court will add the non-business expenses back into the income.

Q. What if the receiving parent does not use the support payments for the child?

Unfortunately, the law does not require that child support be used for a specific purpose. The recipient does not have to account for the used child support payments. Rather, for child support in California, the law presumes that general living expenses—housing, utilities, groceries, clothing—incurred by the receiving parent are incurred for the child’s benefit as well.

Q.  Does the receiving parent have to pay all of the child’s expenses?

No, child support in California is for basic living expenses. It does not include educational expenses, extracurricular activities, or non-covered medical expenses. Those are split between the parents.

Q.  Does child support continue through college graduation?

Child support in California terminates when the child reaches 18 and graduates from high school. If the child has not graduated by 18, then support continues until the child graduates high school or s/he turns 19, whichever comes first.

Q.  What if my financial circumstances change?

Child support in California is subject to modification if there is a change in a parent’s financial circumstances. It can also be modified if the physical custody arrangements changed resulting in the child spending more time with the paying parent than the recipient.

Contact a Child Support Attorney

For more information about child support in California, contact a child support lawyer with Law Offices of Rick D. Banks by calling (559) 222-4891.

How to Handle Sharing a Residence While the Divorce Is Pending

divorce processMost people realize that it is not easy to move out of the marital home when they are contemplating divorce. This is why some couples may choose to continue to reside together during the divorce process. Often, the reason is due to financial constraints or because the couple has children. But as you can imagine, this can be very difficult and stressful for the entire family. So if you plan to continue residing with your future ex-spouse during the divorce process, take a look at these tips first.

Determine Financial Responsibilities

Knowing who is responsible for what expenses will help keep the peace. Plan a budget divvying the financial responsibilities, including your shared living expenses. For example, you may decide to split the expenses equally. Or, you may decide to alternate months. Alternatively, you each may be responsible for specific bills. These bills may include rent/mortgage, utilities, cable, Internet, cellphone, insurance, food, children’s education, medical and other expenses.

Divvy Up House Chores

Household duties should also be divvied up so no one person is burdened with all the responsibilities. Household chores include dishes, garbage, laundry, cooking, and cleaning. You may alternate the duties each day, every week or every month. This way, no one person is stuck with a duty he or she dislikes doing.

Help Your Children Through the Transition

Divorcing couples with children may also choose to remain in the family home in the hopes that it will help transition the children into understanding that their parents are splitting up. But pre- and post-divorce sharing of parental duties may not be the same.

It may be beneficial if you both determine which hours of the day each of you will be taking over parenting duties. This will help you, your spouse, and your children become accustomed to how life will be post-divorce.

Living together while co-parenting during the divorce process may also help you and your spouse develop a plausible parenting plan.

Establish Boundaries

Residing together during the divorce process may heighten negative emotions if your living environment causes you additional stress.   To reduce the stress, establish boundaries.

Determine which rooms you each will stay in and how much room you each may need. Ensure common areas, like the kitchen and living room, are accessible to each of you. You may also work out times when you each can have the house to yourself.

Don’t Bring Over a New Romantic Interest

It is not advisable for one spouse to bring a new interest into the home. Not only may this make it more difficult for the children, but may also create or increase animosity and stress. Remember, this is the time to learn how to be independent again and adjust to the changes.

Be Cordial and Respectful

In order to make any divorce proceeding move smoothly it is important to decrease animosity. If you and your spouse must interact, especially in a shared living space, be cordial and respectful. If you both keep fighting then continually living together will not only make the divorce process more difficult, but also burden familial relationships.

Speak to a Divorce Attorney

Considering divorce is an important decision that should not be taken lightly, especially when children are involved. Gathering as much information as possible can help you make informed decisions that are right for you and your family. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer at the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks by calling (559) 222-4891.

Preparing for Child Custody Mediation

custody mediationOne difficult aspect of divorce is determining child custody. When you and the other parent cannot mutually agree to child custody terms, you will need to attend child custody mediation.

What Is Child Custody Mediation?

Pursuant to Family Code 3170(a), if a petition, application or modification request for child custody or visitation is contested, the court shall require the parties to attend custody mediation. Unlike voluntary mediation, a court-ordered mediation will not have a privately paid mediator — usually a retired judge or another lawyer — selected by the parties.

Preparing for Child Custody Mediation With an Unreasonable Parent

There are many reasons why ex-spouses will contest child custody. One parent may believe the other parent is unfit because they have different ideas of how to raise a child. It could be that there is so much animosity between the parents that children become stuck in the middle. Or, it could be that the parents just don’t want to live without the children. For whatever the reason, here are some ways to prepare for child custody mediation.

Don’t Agree Just to Agree

You do not have to come to an agreement during custody mediation. You should only agree to the terms if you believe the terms are in the best interest of your child. Don’t be pressured into agreeing to a custody plan that you don’t believe will work or is not in your child’s best interest.

Be Reasonable

You have an obligation to engage in a good faith effort in negotiations and actively participate in the custody mediation. Be reasonably by keeping an open mind and be willing to listen.

Focus on What’s Best for Your Children

The best way to prepare for your custody mediation is to make ignore the other parent during your decision-making process. Don’t let the other parent’s conduct, or your emotions towards the other parent, sway or otherwise influence your decision. Rather, have a clear understanding of what you believe to be in your children’s best interest and, importantly, why.

Review Available Parenting Plans

It is difficult to determine what plan will work best for your children. Every child is different and will react differently. But there are parenting plans available for you to review. These plans take into consideration the children’s ages and needs when providing sample terms.   Check with your county to see if there are any parenting guidelines available for you to review.

Review Your Court Documents

You should familiarize yourself with the petition for child custody and the responsive declaration to the petition. This will provide you with the other party’s position so you could prepare yourself for what the other parent’s arguments will be.

Review Your Active Child Custody Order

You should re-review any active child custody order. If the petition is to modify the child custody order, then you should understand what your current order is and what changes the other party is seeking. You should also be familiar with any exhibits attached to the active order.

Review Your Supporting Exhibits

If you are seeking sole custody or wishing to modify the custody order, then be familiar with the documents supporting your request. For example, if the other party was involved in domestic violence or abused substances (alcohol or drugs), then make sure you know your evidence, such as medical records, police reports, photographs, etc.

Speak to an Experienced Child Custody Attorney

If you are in a child custody dispute, don’t go into the custody mediation alone. Having a seasoned child custody attorney with the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks fighting at your side will help ease your stress and your anxiety. Call (559) 222-4891 today.

How the Trump Tax Plan Will Affect Spousal Support Payments

spousal support, Trump tax planDivorce is complicated enough. But add in the Trump tax plan, and it gets a little more complex. Previously, you could deduct spousal support payments on your federal income tax return. The receiver of spousal support also had to report these payments as taxable income. But now, effective January 1, 2019, the Trump tax plan will change the way alimony payments can be taxed.

Trump Tax Plan Eliminates Alimony Deductions

The Trump tax plan regarding spousal support applies to:

  • Divorce or separation settlements or orders that are executed after December 31, 2018; or,
  • Modified spousal support after December 31, 2018, but only if the modification order specifically states that the Trump tax plan applies.

If the above applies, then the payer cannot deduct alimony payments from his or her federal income tax return. On the other hand, the receiver of alimony will no longer have to include them as taxable income.

However, the alimony payments mandated by divorce or separation agreements executed prior to 2019 are unaffected.

Changes in the Law Could Mean Higher Taxes and Smaller Spousal Support Payments

The Trump tax plan could mean higher taxes and lower spousal support payments. Usually, the higher-earning spouse will pay spousal support to the lower-earning spouse. The best way to see how the new tax laws will affect you is by way of illustration.

Say the husband is the higher-earning spouse and his top marginal tax rate is 35%. The wife is the lower-earning spouse whose top marginal tax rate is 22%. Let’s say the couple’s divorce settlement decrees that the husband will pay $2000 per month in alimony.

Pursuant to the current tax laws, the husband could deduct the entirety of the $2000/month ($24,000) off the top of his income. This means the $24,000 he paid out won’t be taxed at the 35% tax rate, permitting him to save $8,400 in taxes. The wife, who must report the spousal support payments as taxable income, will be paying 22% tax rate on the $24,000 spousal support payments. Thus, she will owe the IRS $5,280.

Under the Trump tax plan, the wife will pay nothing while the husband will pay the additional $8,400 in taxes.

How Will This Affect Me?

Under the current rules, family law attorneys are able to come to a mutually agreeable settlement for spousal support. Because of the immense tax savings, the higher-earning spouse has more incentive to agree to pay higher alimony to the lesser-earning spouse. But beginning 2019, spousal support payments are likely to be lower and with more financial burden on both parties due to the tax changes. This also affects alimony payments modified after December 31, 2018.

So, for those seeking divorce, it is more likely that the higher-earning spouse will want to finalize the divorce prior to December 31, 2018, since the lower-earning spouse bears the tax burden. Contrarily, the lower-earning spouse may want the divorce finalized on or after January 1, 2019, because the higher-earning spouse bears the tax burden.

Other Things to Consider

But the tax burden should not be the only thing you should consider when thinking about divorce. For instance, if one spouse is expecting a massive payday from a business venture, the other spouse may want to wait until after the income has been earned.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney

There are many issues to think about when deciding to divorce. The tax benefit/burden is just one aspect of divorce. If you are considering divorce, it is crucial that you seek sound advice from an experienced family law attorney. Call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today at (559) 222-4891.