Child Support

Common Financial Mistakes in Calculating Child Support by Cassandra Hearn

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When divorcing or ending a long-term relationship, financial issues are often at the very center of the controversy.  People have often worked for years or even decades to build their future together, and dividing that up and going forward without the other person to provide support can be challenging both emotionally and financially.  Child support is an issue that comes up in any case when the parties share a child together.  Child support is set by a particular formula and determined using a calculator. Especially where parents are attempting to complete a matter without court intervention, it is common to attempt to use the calculator without the assistance of an attorney.  However, this can lead to a variety of common mistakes.

The first mistake is not understanding how to properly calculate income.  The income of both parents is taken into account. When both parents have only one job, which pays salary, and that job issues a W-2, determining the income is fairly straightforward.  However, what many do not realize is that other sources of income also typically count.  For example, payments from an annuity, rental income, or income from an independent contracting job would also be included in the determination of child support.

Another mistake is assuming that a parent’s new spouse’s income should be included in the calculation of a parent’s income. This is not correct.  California family code 4057.5 provides that the new spouse’s income shall not be taken into consideration except in the extraordinary cases where excluding that income would result in a severe hardship to the child.  This means that even if your former wife marries a professional sports player, that does not mean that the new husband’s large income will impact your child support obligation.

People also make the mistake of forgetting that child support ordered for the benefit of other children outside this relationship can also factor in.  For example, if you are court-ordered to pay child support for a child you had before you met your soon to be former wife, that order can be taken into account in the current support calculation.  However, the support must actually be done by a court order for you to receive credit.

Calculating child support can be complicated.  We have experience in helping our clients to understand the law and accurate set child support obligations.