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Bay Area & Sacramento Area Family Law Blog

How to calculate child support

In California, child support is determined partially by the incomes of both parents. How much time each parent occupies with the child will also be factored into the total amount. Parents are required to fill out an Income and Expense Declaration form, and there may be legal consequences for failing to tell the truth on that form. A judge will first look at a parent's net income after allowable deductions.

Net disposable income is usually what is left over after accounting for union dues, taxes and health care premiums. If a parent is paying child support or has expenses related to raising other children, those costs will also be deducted. When determining child support, the law says that rental income, gambling winnings and dividends from stocks may be counted as income. Disability or unemployment benefits may also count as income.

How an agreement on child support may be reached

When California parents of young children divorce, the non-custodial parent will likely be required to pay child support. How much is paid, how often it is paid and how long the support lasts are all elements of a child support plan that must be decided. This decision may be reached by parents negotiating with the help of their attorneys, by alternative dispute resolution, or in court.

In the first two examples, the aim is usually to produce a written agreement that will be taken to a judge for approval. A judge will usually approve a child support agreement that follows state guidelines and seems fairly negotiated. The agreement then becomes legally binding, and this means that parents who do not abide by it might face legal repercussions.

Reaching agreements about child support

California parents are obligated to contribute financially to the upbringing of their children. When they are seeking to end their marriage, the noncustodial parent will likely be obligated to pay child support to the custodial parent. There are a few ways that this issue can be handled.

An agreement can result from informal negotiations between the parents, who will often ask their respective lawyers to assist. In other cases, parents can choose to participate in alternative dispute resolution proceedings that would occur outside of the courtroom. The determination can also be made by a judge if no accord can otherwise be reached.

The financial side of preparing for divorce

California couples who are ending their marriage can organize their finances in a way that might make the process less difficult. While they may get advice from friends and family, it is important to remember that legal and financial professionals might be able to offer more reliable counsel, and people should not hesitate to consult and hire these professionals if necessary.

A person who has not been keeping up with household expenses should make a budget that details what is incoming and outgoing in order to get a better sense of how debts and assets might be divided in the divorce. Gathering documents, such as tax returns, pay stubs, credit card statements and retirement account information, might help in understanding the family finances. Having this documentation early in the process may also be helpful if the other spouse becomes resistant later to sharing information. Furthermore, there may be legal action that can be taken against a spouse who is not cooperating in the disclosure stage of a divorce.

Husband's employment status correlated with divorce risk

Californians might be interested in a study that shows that the work status of a husband often correlates to their risk of getting divorced. The study was recently published in the "American Sociological Review."

The study was done by a Harvard sociology professor who reviewed data spanning 46 years from 6,300 married couples. In the mid-1970s, when more women began working, data showed that there was a corresponding increase in divorces. After 1975, however, the professor found that housework was no longer a major factor in increased divorce rates. She also found that in more recent times, women are not more likely to file for divorce simply because they have more economic independence. The divorce risk increased depending on the employment status of the men.

Separated California families may benefit from nesting

Traditional custody-sharing arrangements may not be viable for all families, and some divorced parents are turning to nesting. This kind of custody sharing contrasts with typical methods by focusing on providing the children with a less disruptive lifestyle as the parents take turns occupying the family home with their kids.

Divorce mediators say that nesting can make it easier for children to avoid feeling uprooted since they don't have to change their living environment whenever it's time to exchange custody. In some cases, adults favor these setups because they don't have to purchase extra homes capable of accommodating their entire family minus the other parent. Instead, they can just pay the rent on an apartment for their personal use while they're not the one taking care of the kids.

Aisha Tyler and Jeff Tietjens finalize their divorce

The community property laws in California provide family law judges in the state with few options, and divorcing couples who would rather decide for themselves how their property will be divided may enter into amicable agreements to avoid protracted court disputes. Celebrity gossip is now an accepted part of the daily news cycle, and famous divorcing couples may be especially motivated to end their marriages quietly and avoid the public glare of a civil trial.

This is what the former 'Criminal Minds" star and 'The Talk" co-host Aisha Tyler and her attorney husband Jeff Tietjens did when they came to the conclusion that their 20-year marriage was beyond repair. Tietjens said that the couple had been estranged for some time when he filed for divorce in Los Angeles in 2016, and media reports indicate that the couple reached an agreement on May 17 that will finalize matters once it has been reviewed and approved by a judge.

Using mediation to end a marriage

Divorce is never easy for California couples, even if both parties are determined to end their marriage amicably. For those who do not wish to go before a judge, mediation may be a viable option.

Working with a skilled mediator provides numerous advantages for estranged couples who are looking to end their marriage quickly in an uncontested divorce. The impartial third party's sole purpose is to help the couple work together towards a resolution. Mediation allows them to remain in control of the process and to define their own settlement terms. This process is also more flexible, allowing estranged spouses to schedule their own sessions when it is convenient for them to do so. A mediator can also keep the process simpler and more sensitive to the needs of any children the couple may have, meaning they may not have to interact with the court.

Using SDU services to collect child support

Collecting child support can be difficult for many California parents. It is common for child support amounts to enter arrears and remain unpaid for extended periods of time. Parents should understand that they have options when it comes to collecting child support from an unwilling former partner. The state takes child support collection very seriously and has programs in place to help parents with collection.

One of the most important aspects of the collection process parents should understand is the role of the State Disbursement Unit. California manages an SDU for the purposes of collecting payments and providing the funds to custodial parents. When child support is collected through means of income withholding or some other automated procedure, the money is often handled by the SDU. Custodial parents may make use of SDU services to collect child support payments in this manner.

Substance abuse may lead courts to alter custody arrangements

In California, the courts apply a best interest of the child standard when it comes to determining custody. The standard takes a number of distinct factors into account to consider a parent's general fitness. Even in cases where custody has already been decided, the court may alter a custody or visitation arrangement in some circumstances. If one of the parents begins to abuse drugs or alcohol, for example, the court may order changes such as requiring supervision during visitation.

When courts get involved, they are equipped to take action. In a case where substance abuse has a negative impact on the parent's ability to take care of the child or where the parent poses a risk to the well-being of the child, the judge will generally conduct an investigation.

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Miller & Associates, Attorneys LLP

Miller & Associates, Attorneys LLP
6542 Lonetree Boulevard
Rocklin, CA 95765

Phone: 916-780-0848 
Fax: 916-780-0787

Miller & Associates, Attorneys LLP
850 Iron Point Road, Suite 113A
Folsom, CA 95630

Phone: 916-365-4941 
Fax: 916-780-0787


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