Child Support in Los Angeles
Per California Family Code §4053, both parents have an affirmative obligation to support their children to the best of their ability and according to the “parent’s circumstances and station in life.” Although parties are sometimes able to amicably reach an agreement regarding a support amount, that is often not the case. When a dispute arises, the attorneys at Wilkinson and Finkbeiner can assist you in getting an appropriate child support order.
How is Child Support Determined?
The California Family Code outlines a complicated formula to determine “guideline” child support. Guideline support is the presumed correct amount to be ordered; however, by agreement, the parties may set child support at a different amount. Likewise, the court may order a non-guideline amount in certain unique circumstances.
The Dissomaster program allows the Los Angeles courts and attorneys to calculate guideline support based on a number of factors, including the following:
- Each parent’s gross employment income or earning capacity (see below).
- The amount of other income either parent earns (e.g. rental income, dividends, etc.)
- Each parent’s health care, mandatory retirement, and union expenses.
- Child support either parent pays for children of another relationship.
- Each parent’s tax-filing status.
- Each parent’s itemized deductions.
- A parent’s new spouse’s income (for purposes of determining taxes on the parent’s income only and not to be used as income for support).
- The number of children.
- The custodial timeshare.
What is Income?
The Family Code contains a substantial list of what may be considered income for purposes of support. The list includes, but is not limited to the following: commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits, spousal support (from another relationship), self-employment or business income, and in some cases, employee benefits and gifts from third parties.
What is Earning Capacity?
In some cases, where a parent is either unemployed or underemployed, the court may impute an income to that party based on their earning capacity (i.e. ability to earn) if doing so is in the best interest of the children. In order to make an imputation case, the other party has the burden to prove the non-earning party has the ability and opportunity to earn a particular income. Ability means that person has the education, skills, and requirements needed for a specific job. Opportunity means there is an actual employer within the community who would hire the party for the specific job.
What Other Orders Can the Court Make or the Parties Agree to for Additional Child Support?
In addition to monthly child support, the Court also has the ability to make additional mandatory or discretionary support orders as follows:
Mandatory: Unless the parties agree otherwise, pursuant to Family Code §4062, the Court shall order each party to pay 50% of all unreimbursed medical expenses (i.e. expenses not paid for by insurance) and 50% of all childcare costs related employment or reasonably necessary education or training for employment.
Voluntary/Discretionary: Unless the parties agree otherwise and by request of one of the parties, the court has the ability to make additional child support orders related to educational costs or special needs of the children and travel expenses for visitation.
By Agreement of the Parties: The parties may agree to share other costs such as private school tuition, agreed-upon extra-curricular activities, and post-secondary education.
What is CSSD?
CSSD stands for the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department. CSSD establishes and enforces child support orders for custodial parents who are receiving public assistance from the government and for non-aided families at the parent’s request. The CSSD attorneys and case workers do not represent either party in a child support case; instead, the parties either represent themselves or hire outside representation. Prior to any child support hearing in which CSSD is involved, there is a duty for the parties to meet and confer with the case manager before appearing before the judicial officer. CSSD has enforcement mechanisms available when the payor party is not compliant with a child support order such as suspending driver’s and business licenses.