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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.

 

How Can I Get the Costs of Private School Included in Child Support Payments?

Parents always want what’s best for their children. This is an admirable sentiment, but it’s subject to change when a family is going through a dissolution or a legal separation. That sounds a bit extreme, but it sometimes happens when one parent insists that the other parent pay their child’s private school costs. California’s family codes don’t automatically include private school expenses as a factor in support calculations. As a parent, you have two ways to have those costs included in your child support payments.

  • Establish a private school payment agreement with your spouse.
  • Present evidence seeking a court order in favor of your private school payment request.

Parents simplify the process when they agree that one or both parents should share their child’s private school costs. In some situations, financial concerns become a cooperation stumbling block, but you still have options. Even if an estranged spouse doesn’t willingly agree to the added expenses, the court has the discretion to designate tuition as a reasonable child support expense. Of course, you must present evidence to substantiate your request.

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Attorney Steven M. Bishop has helped many families resolve their child support issues before they become insurmountable. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop has helped couples negotiate support arrangements for private schooling and other additional costs. When necessary, he prepares and presents your supporting evidence in Family Court. Attorney Bishop provides compassionate guidance and assistance as he works to resolve your most pressing issues.

How Much Does Private School Cost in California?

California has a history of litigation over child support and private school tuition. Parents rarely object to their child receiving a better quality education. Disagreements usually focus on cost. Tuition is the primary reason why joint or non-custodial parents rebel against paying for private school. Of course, it’s in the best interests of the child, but it’s usually a high-dollar child support add-on.

The website Private School Review documents 2020/21 school year tuition costs throughout the state. They receive regular updates from schools that confirm their tuition costs. The current average annual cost for private school education in California is $14,718 per year. Tuition varies widely depending on the school and the grade.

  • Preschool: Ranges from a high of $47,000 to a low of $1,011
  • Elementary school: Average cost per year, $11,569 (Highest, $61,000, Lowest, $1,200)
  • High School: Average cost per year, $20,000 (Highest, $66,900, Lowest, $1,200)

What Does Child Support Pay For California?

California Family Law establishes specific child support goals under Statewide Uniform Guideline, §4050 – 4076. The provisions establish child support requirements that meet a child’s need for housing, food, clothing, extracurricular activities, and other expenses. The guidelines also ensure that children receive financial support that’s consistent with the state’s high standard of living and high child-raising costs. The law presumes that the parent with the most physical responsibility devotes a substantial amount of their resources to raising their child.

The guidelines include several additional child support standards.

  • A parent’s primary obligation is to support their children “…according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.”
  • Both parents are “mutually responsible” for support.
  • Support considers each parent’s income and responsibility for the child.
  • Each parent should pay according to his/her ability.
  • The child’s interests are the state’s top priority.
  • Children should share both parents’ standard of living.
  • Families should rely on private financial resources to meet their child’s needs.

Under §4062, family courts have discretion in issuing orders that may include these and other additional items.

  • Child care costs while a parent works or enters a training or educational program to develop new employment skills
  • Reasonable uninsured health care costs
  • Costs for educational or special needs
  • Visitation travel expenses

This discretion opens the door for a parent to receive child support that includes private school tuition costs. As with many court cases, the party requesting consideration has the burden of proving the need.

Presenting a Case for Private School Support

Many parents feel that private school is a choice, not a requirement. If you can’t convince your estranged spouse through sincere negotiation, you must persuade the court to find in your favor. You have several ways to plead your case. Your child’s school administrators and teachers should be able to provide evidence to help you substantiate your claims.

  • Educational Stability: If your child is already in private school, transferring him or her to public school could have an adverse impact on their education. When a child switches schools, they lose touch with their friends and teachers. Considering the variation in learning standards and class offerings, a transfer could erase a child’s educational and social progress.
  • Religious or Cultural Expectations: When your children attend a religious or culture-based school, it reinforces principles, traditions, and social behaviors they won’t learn in other schools. It can also be a requirement of certain religions.
  • Special or Gifted Learning Needs: In a traditional public school, your gifted or special-needs child won’t usually get the attention they require based on their learning capacity.
  • Your Active Involvement: As a parent, you interact with your child’s teachers. You take on special duties, and you attend school functions. You are actively involved in your child’s education. A move to a new school would alter that dynamic for both you and your child.
  • Family Tradition: If your older children had the benefit of attending a private school, a change in household status shouldn’t change that tradition. It could affect your younger child’s overall education as well as college prospects and future career possibilities.
  • Financial Means: When the other parent has the financial capability to pay private school costs, private school tuition won’t cause undue economic strain. This complies with child support guidelines which mandate that “Children should share in the standard of living of both parents.”

When you present a strong case, the court should accept your view that private school is a genuine obligation to your child. As both parents must share in the child’s support, the court may issue an order for one or both spouses to share the additional costs.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

If private schooling provides the best education for your child, you might be able to work out an agreement with your spouse. If you can’t agree, the court will consider your evidence and make a decision. Either way, you should have a legal professional working on your behalf. Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a Certified Specialist in Family Law. He’s helped clients resolve child support issues during negotiations and in court. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

Modifying Child Support Orders Retroactive Due to COVID-19 in California

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Californians conduct every aspect of their lives. These changes have affected all traditional interactions, including those involving the San Diego County Family Court system. In compliance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders and Superior Court General Orders, all courthouses and services are temporarily closed to the public. Except for “…certain time-sensitive and essential functions…,” affected parties must work within a schedule of court extensions or comply with interim rules. The courts have also suspended e-filings as a document submission alternative.

Fortunately, the situation is temporary. As life returns to some semblance of normalcy, the courts will eventually open their doors. That provides little consolation if you are struggling financially because of your current child support arrangement. If you are frustrated with your current support order and need a change, a legal representative can help you decide how best to proceed.

Discuss Your Concerns With an Attorney

Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a certified specialist in family law and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. He stays abreast of ongoing changes, so he understands how to navigate legal issues and court challenges.  That is important during these unprecedented times when a pandemic controls our day-to-day activities.

Attorney Bishop can provide critical answers to your questions about COVID-19-related support order modifications. With court systems on hold, legal processes are often complicated and tough to manage. Despite temporary court-closings, procedural changes, and delays, he can assist you in initiating a support order modification that takes advantage of a temporary retroactive provision.

Emergency Rules Related to COVID-19

When you need a child support modification order, a temporary delay causes significant hardship. Fortunately, the California Judicial Council recognizes this dilemma. Effective April 20, 2020, they added Rule 13 to its existing list of temporary procedures. Instead of waiting for the court to resume normal operations, you may initiate a child support order modification through an informal process.

Child Support Default: A COVID-19 Legacy

Child support will be a continuing element of concern even after the state’s “stay at home” order expires. The temporary business closings that helped minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 also generated record unemployment numbers. The Employment Development Department reports 99,500 lost non-farm jobs in the state from February through March 12, 2020. The numbers reflect California’s fourth-largest job-loss trend on record. It will likely continue when EDD publishes its updated figures on May 22, 2020.

Temporary job furloughs have left many workers with no source of regular income. The losses have created a situation where both custodial parents and non-custodial parents are caught up in COVID-19’s economic legacy. Some unemployed custodial parents need child support increases to provide food, shelter, and care for their children. Some unemployed parents who must pay child support have difficulty complying with existing agreements. Without some procedural relief, child support accounts will reflect unmanageable delinquencies that may subject non-paying parents to criminal penalties.

Child Support Modification

The San Diego child support system modification process helps ease financial distress for custodial and non-custodial parents. One or both parents may request a child support order modification when a situation changes:

  • Changed income
  • Lost job
  • Incarceration
  • Another child from a different relationship
  • Significant changes in time spent with the non-custodial parent
  • Changes in a child’s financial needs
  • Changes in custody calculation factors

As a custodial or non-custodial parent, you must request a child support modification through a formal court process, and it is best to consult an attorney for assistance.

Emergency Rule 13 Makes The Process More Flexible

With courthouse access restricted to emergency situations and e-filings suspended, the courthouse closings and procedure suspensions effectively shut parents out of the modification process. As the court bases modification dates on the date a request was filed, court services suspensions eliminate the potential for timely relief.  When the California Judicial Council issued Emergency Rule 13, it changed modification order effective dates. Parents must still file a formal request, but the emergency rule gives them some degree of flexibility.

Retroactive Support Orders

Child support orders were not considered in the Judicial Council’s original emergency rules dated April 6, 2020. The initial 11 procedural changes related to criminal and juvenile delinquency matters, foster care, foreclosures, and a few other issues. The emergency child support modification rule became effective on April 20, 2020. Under the temporary rule, a parent may file a modification request by following Emergency Rule 13 Guidelines. If approved, orders are retroactive to the date you started your modification process.

The emergency process allows you to “…start your case now…” and this provision applies only if you cannot file your request “…because of COVID-19…”

Do You Need an Attorney to Assist You With Your Modification Process?

Whether you are sick due to COVID-19 or unemployed because of a layoff, a modification order gives you relief until your financial situation improves. It is an important step. You need a legal professional to make the process go as smoothly as possible.  Attorney Steven M. Bishop, has handled divorce, custody, support, and estate planning challenges for over four decades. He is a Certified Specialist in Family Law who has always dedicated his time and energy to resolving his clients’ most pressing issues.

Attorney Bishop has assisted his clients with support modification orders and many other important legal processes. You can reach him at 619-304-0418 or by completing our Contact Form.

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Discuss Your Case With An Experienced Family Law Specialist

To talk to our lawyer about your family law issue in a free telephone consultation, please call our office at 619-299-9780. You may also send us an email. We represent people throughout San Diego County in a host of different family law matters.

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The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation


591 Camino De La Reina, Suite 700

San Diego, CA 92108

Phone: 619-299-9780

Fax: 619-299-0316

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