Low-cost Sacramento Child Support Attorney
Mon – Sat
8 AM – 6 PM
Affordable child support attorney Michael Benavides helps custodial parents gain fair child support awards. Unlike many family law attorneys, Michael believes in transparent pricing and predictable billing so clients can afford an attorney throughout their child support case. Accordingly, Michael Benavides charges a low hourly rate of $250 per hour payable by credit card.
To learn more about child support and divorce call (916) 250-1610 to schedule your consultation.
All parents want to provide for their children, but California child support law can impose a significant financial burden on the income-producing parent. California child support law recognizes that child support awards are calculated using each parent’s actual income (which is zero for the stay-at-home parent) and may appropriately increase the standard of living of the custodial parent. As a result, California child support law, while designed to establish “adequate” child support, often leaves high-income parents and single-income households with significant child support obligations.
In light of the long-term financial impact of child support orders, parents often invest more time and resources in contesting child support than other issues in divorce. To learn more about establishing or modifying child support call low-cost divorce attorney Michael Benavides at (916) 250-1610 for a consultation.
Percentage of Custodial Parents Receiving Full, Partial, or No Child Support Payments That Were Supposed To Be Received:
Source: US Census – Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2015
Policy Behind California Child Support
The policies behind California’s statutory formula for calculating child support (aka the State Uniform Guideline) are found in Family Code Section 4053. Some of the most important policies that weigh against the higher-earning parent are:
- Ability to Pay – Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability
- Improved Parent Standard of Living – Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Accordingly, child support may appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
- Presumed Money Spent on Child – It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children.
- California’s High Standard of Living – Child support orders must ensure that children receive fair, timely and sufficient support reflective of California’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.
- Calculation Is Correct – The amount of support awarded using the Guideline is presumptively correct in all cases.
How Child Support Is Calculated
California courts use an algebraic formula to calculate child support known as the Statewide Uniform Guideline. The Guideline is expressed in Family Code Section 4055 as:
CS = K[HN – (H%)(TN)]
CS = child support amount.
K = amount of both parents’ income to be allocated for child support
HN = high earner’s net monthly disposable income.
H% = approximate percentage of time that the high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent.
TN = total net monthly disposable income of both parties.
The Two Most Important Factors
Unfortunately for the income-producing parent in a single-income household, the two most important factors in calculating child support are income and custodial time with the children. Accordingly, the income-producing parent in a single income household will pay a significant amount of child support to the stay-at-home parent. Likewise, if there is significant disparity between incomes in a dual-income household, the high-earner will pay a significant amount of child support to the low-earner.
Net Monthly Disposable Income (TN)
To calculate net monthly disposable income the court will first establish the gross income of each parent, then subtract allowable deductions to yield net monthly disposable income.
Gross income for purposes of calculating child support is income from whatever source derived, except income that is legally exempt from the child support calculation. This broad definition includes both sources of income that must be included in the calculation per Family Code Section 4058 and sources of income and financial benefit that may be included in the court’s discretion, such as imputing income from underutilized income-producing assets.
Family Code Section 4058 states that the following forms of income must be included in gross income:
- Wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses
- Self employment income such as gross receipts minus expenditures required for the operation of the business.
- Rents, dividends, royalties, interest
- Pensions, trust income, annuities
- Workers compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits
- Spousal support actually received from a person not a party to the child support proceeding
The aforementioned list identifies the sources of income that must be included in gross income, but the list is by no means exhaustive. The court has discretion to impute income from earning capacity, underutilized income-producing assets, recurring gifts, employee benefits and other sources of financial benefit.
Once the court establishes gross income it must subtract allowable deductions to yield net monthly disposable income. Allowable deductions are identified in Family Code Section 4059 and include:
- Federal and state taxes actually payable, not necessarily the amounts withheld on paychecks.
- FICA contributions
- Mandatory union dues and retirement benefits required as a condition of employment
- Health insurance premiums for the parent and any children the parent is obligated to support
- State disability insurance premiums
- Job related expenses in the discretion of the court
- Child and spousal support actually being paid pursuant to a court order for the benefit of another who is not a subject of the present proceeding. Child and spousal support being paid without a court order may be deducted up to the Guideline amount if it’s for a natural or adopted child not residing with the parent, the child is not a subject of the proceeding, and the parent has a duty to support the child.
- Hardship deduction due to extraordinary health expenses or uninsured catastrophic losses.
Time Share with Children (H%)
The second most important factor when calculating child support is time-share. Time-share is the approximate percentage of time the high-earner will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the low-earner.
A question can arise as to which parent has primary physical responsibility for the children when the children are not in any parent’s physical custody, such as when the children are in school or day care. Courts often impute the time children spend in school or day care to the custodial parent unless the non-custodial parent raises the issue and presents evidence that they have primary physical responsibility for the children at that time. Such evidence can take the form of transporting the children to and from school, paying tuition, participation in school activities, and being the emergency contact.
Mandatory Findings on Request of Parties
If a party requests, the court must state the following information it used to determine the guideline amount of child support:
- Each parent’s net monthly disposable income
- Each parent’s actual federal income tax filing status (for example, single, married, married filing separately, or head of household, and number of exemptions)
- Each parent’s deductions from gross income
- The approximate percentage of time each parent has primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent.
Attaching a printout of the child support calculation to the order is considered sufficient as to findings.
To receive a consultation with child support attorney Michael Benavides call (916) 250-1610 Monday – Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM.