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The basic purpose of child support is to provide for the needs of the child. This is not limited to direct expenses for items such as food, clothing, school and entertainment. Child support may also be used at the discretion of the receiving parent for anything including housing, utilities, transportation, and much more.
How is Child Support Calculated?
In 1984 the California Legislature enacted the Agnos Minimum Child Support Standards Act to establish minimum levels for child support. The child support guideline formula has since been used to determine and calculate the minimum child support amount to be paid by one parent to another. Simply put, the formula considers three steps. The first step of the formula is to ascertain the combined gross monthly income of the parties. The next step determines the net monthly income, based on various factors including current state and federal tax laws. The third step considers the custody, visitation and time share of the children. The result is the minimum child support order. The majority of support orders are predicated on the Child Support Guideline formula. The courts do have certain authority to increase child support beyond the minimum levels, but this is generally done only in extraordinary circumstances where the child’s special needs exceed those of the ordinary.
Below is a general, non-exhaustive list of points affecting the guideline formula:
How long is child support paid and does it ever change?
Support is generally paid until the child turns eighteen unless he or she has not graduated high school in which case child support will continue until graduation or when the child turns 19, whichever occurs earlier.
Child support is modifiable at any time by either party, so long as there is change of circumstance that would affect the support formula. Some items affecting the formula include a change of income to either parent, changes in tax deduction to either parent that affect the net income of that parent, change in time share with the child and more.
Besides child support, does a parent have to pay for anything else?
Yes, several things are payable by the parties beyond the minimum guideline support discussed above.
1) Health care: the parties need to provide the child with health insurance. This is often done through one of the parties employers, but the court can order both parents to carry health insurance for the minor. In addition, the parents will be equally responsible for any out of pocket medical expenses for the child, e.g., insurance co-pays and medicine.
2) Child Care: Child care expenses so the parties may work or go to school will be also be the shared expense of the parties in addition to child support formula orders. However, this does not include child care expenses for personal time such as baby-sitting so a parent may go out on Saturday night.
3) Extra-Curricular Activities: After school activities such as piano lessons, soccer and ballet are discretionary and while the parties may agree to share these costs, the courts generally do not order such expenses to be shared.