Child Support and Spousal Support
The child support laws in California are for the most part income driven. Our legislature has devised a "formula" whereby the incomes (which is not always easy to determine--particularly with self-employed folks) and major tax deductions (i.e., mortgage interest and property taxes) of both parties are put into a computer program (DissoMaster and Support Tax are two such programs) and the program calculates the amount of child support to be paid. The program takes into account the percentage of time the children spend with each parent as well as contributions to deferred savings plans, medical insurance payments and other appropriate deductions. The program then calculates net (after tax) income available to the family and apportions income between the two families whereby generally one parent must pay child support to the other.
The payment which is calculated by the program is generally ordered by the Court. Court's do not deviate from this guideline payment except in very narrow circumstances. The Courts must also order that the parties share in uninsured health care costs for the children and that the parties share in child care costs related to employment. The apportionment of these costs is generally 50/50; however, the Court can in some circumstances order a different apportionment.
We believe that our clients should be as well educated as possible in this area so that they can make informed decisions. We provide the following summary, which is not intended to be legal advice, to give an overview of the child support laws in the State of California.
We work regularly with forensic Certified Public Accountants who have expertise in family law matters to insure that child support calculations for our clients are as accurate as they can be.
In our opinion, the child support laws in the State of California are somewhat arbitrary because the result is not always rationally related to the needs of the children. However, until the law changes, the guidelines are followed by the Courts and it is our job to insure that the information which is relied upon by the Court in making the child support order is accurate.Spousal Support
Spousal Support is also commonly known as alimony. Spousal Support is separate from child support. Spousal Support can be ordered above and beyond child support and is designed to balance the incomes and needs of the parties in a way that would not impoverish either. Spousal Support is a money allowance given by one spouse to another, intended to pay for that spouse's health, education, and general welfare. It is not intended to be part of the division of marital property. Such support is meant to be rehabilitative; to allow the receiving spouse time to get adjusted to the divorce and establish him or herself, financially. Spousal Support is typically paid on a monthly basis.
There are two different forms of spousal support - temporary and permanent:
- Temporary spousal support is largely income driven
- Permanent spousal support, however, is largely a subjective determination made by the Court and takes into account many different factors set forth in California Family Code 4320.
We have a firm philosophy on matters related to spousal support:
- BOTH parties should be employed at a level commensurate with their earning capacity. If there are very young children, then we assess whether employment is in the best interests of the children. If there are physical factors which effect employability, then we assess those as well. However, as a general rule, parties are obligated to make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.
- We do not tolerate efforts to suppress income, efforts to avoid working or non-payment of spousal support.
- We work diligently with a forensic Certified Public Accountant to determine the appropriate level of spousal support (both temporary and permanent) and to insure that good financial planning is done on behalf of the client. We also work closely with vocational assessors who will tell me (and the Court as appropriate) what a non-working or under-employed spouse can and should be doing to become self-supporting.
- We insure that our clients are well educated in this area both as to the law and the practical aspects of spousal support (i.e., marital standard of living, post separation increase in earnings, etc.) so that clients can make well informed financial decisions.
In summary, we use multiple resources to assist our clients in this area and we work closely with our clients both financially and emotionally to achieve the best possible financial outcome for the client.