Child Support Considerations for Same-Sex Couples

Child support and custody is always an issue when a couple is in the process of getting a divorce. Seldom do both partners agree on which parent should have custody, and there is seldom agreement about support matters.

In California, child support is calculated using a formula which includes the income of both parents including wages, disability payments, and unemployment benefits. Mandatory fees like retirement contributions and union dues are deducted from these amounts. Other deductions such as child support payments from other children, spousal support payments, and job-related expenses may also be deducted. While this may seem crystal clear in most divorces, there is often a question as to how these impact same-sex couples.

Same Sex Couples and Child Support in California

There are often questions regarding support payments and custody when it comes to same-sex couples. One parent generally is not biologically related to the child or children in question. However, same-sex couples in California have the same rights and the same financial obligations to their children as their non-same-sex peers.

This is largely in part due to a California Supreme Court ruling in which the court determined the children of a same-sex couple have the right to the care and attention of both parents, even when only one parent is biologically tied to the child.

This type of ruling means both parents, regardless of sex, have a financial obligation to the child until they reach the age of 18, or until the child reaches 19 if they are still full-time students.

How Child Support is Calculated in Same Sex Divorces

The courts have an obligation to ensure both parents are treated the same financially for purposes of establishing child support payments. As such, there is an elaborate calculation which determines how much support each parent is able to provide. The elements of this calculation are:

  • Total Income — the income of both parents will be calculated, and a formula will be used to determine their gross income. Mandatory deductions such as taxes, union dues and work-related expenses will be taken into consideration.
  • Health Care/Insurance Expenses — medical care or insurance premiums will also be taken into consideration. If a child has medical issues which are not covered by insurance, this will also be included in the formula.
  • Educational and Daycare Expenses — the costs associated with the child’s education and care while a parent works may also be included in the formula for determining support.
  • Prior Obligations for Support – if either parent is obligated to pay child support for other children this is also taken into consideration when determining how much support should be paid by one parent.
  • Amount of Time with Child — in general, child support payments are made to the custodial parent. In some cases, especially those involving joint custody, there will simply be a division of expenses incurred for each parent in raising the child.
  • Other Factors — the court may review other facts which are relevant including any special needs of the child, the parent’s physical condition and age, etc.

The general formula for child support payments looks like this: CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN))

  • CS means child support
  • K means combined income of both parents
  • HN means net disposable income (high net)
  • H% means time each parent spends with child
  • TN means total net monthly disposable income of parents

You should speak with your divorce attorney or the attorney dealing with support disputes about how much child support you may be entitled to receive or may be required to pay. These numbers may also be impacted by other factors per California Family Code Section 4057(a).

Modifying Support Orders in California

There are certain factors which may result in a change being requested in a California child support order. Keep in mind, the decision to request modification must be based on factors which directly impact the person paying support or the parent receiving support.

Some valid reasons for requesting a modification of a child support order include:

  • Changes in Income — either parent who has an income change of more than 10 percent higher or lower may request a modification for support. This includes a parent who has lost their job, or a promotion.
  • Changes in Expenses — expenses for children may change in regard to their needs for daycare, education, or health care. If there is a steep increase or decrease in these expenses, it may be worthwhile looking at a support modification.
  • Custodial or Visitation Changes — when the amount of time a child spends with one parent significantly changes, there may be a need to change the support order.
  • Additional Children — if one parent becomes a parent as a result of another relationship it may be necessary to request a modification.
  • Factors Changing from Original Order — when there are changes in any of the original factors used to set child support payments, a parent may request a modification.

It is important to remember a child support modification is not automatic. Requesting a modification of a child support order should be handled by a skilled family law attorney after a review of the facts.

Non-Payment of Court-Ordered Support

Under California laws, non-payment of child support is a serious offense. Those who fail to make payments as ordered in a final judgment can face serious fines, and potentially may face jail time. A contempt of court charge may be filed against any parent failing to make timely support payments.

In addition to contempt charges, a non-paying parent may also face other consequences. Some of these include suspension of driving rights, denying a passport renewal, liens against their homes, and wage garnishments. When you are entitled to receive child support payments, we can help you hold a non-paying parent accountable.

Parents who are facing any challenges regarding child support need to know what options are available to them. Contact Steven M. Bishop,  a specialist in family law, as certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization at 619-304-0418 or send an email to arrange your free telephone consultation.


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