If you are in the process of divorcing your spouse, and you have children, you may be wondering how child support works. Child support is an amount of money that judge orders one or both parents to contribute to support the children’s living expenses.
The courts determine the child support amount by considering various factors. It is also possible to modify support if necessary.
How to start a child support case
According to California Child Support Services, either parent can open a child support case, and this can occur via online or in person at a child support agency. Opening a case can happen after a judge’s order or before.
If it occurs before an official order, the parents can avoid a court trial and agree together on a support amount. This is a Stipulated Agreement, which either parent can file with the court. If parents cannot agree, there will be an assigned court date.
Factors that determine support
According to the California Courts, if a judge determines support, he or she bases it off a guideline calculation. With a Stipulated Agreement, the parents can agree on an amount that is higher or lower than the guideline, as long as they both understand what that amount is. Factors that the judge considers:
- Current income or potential earning power of each parent
- Number of children to receive support
- Health insurance and health care expenses
- Tax filing status of each parent
- Time-share situation
In general, if parents share custody more equally, the judge orders lower support payments.
Situations that allow for modification
After the initial support order, either parent can request a modification when circumstances change. Eligible factors include if the income of one or both parents change dramatically, or the time-share agreement changes. With modification, a support order may increase or decrease.