As you are navigating the difficult decisions involved with filing for divorce, you may be left wondering how to make financial decisions consistent with your child’s interests. There are several common myths surrounding court-ordered child support obligations you need to identify before making an informed decision.
Although not every situation involving child support must go to court, when an agreement cannot be made outside of court, a judge will have to determine a support order.
The amount of child support paid is dependent on each party’s income and time the child spends in each parent’s care. You and the other parent will be responsible for following the child support order until your child turns 18 or graduates high school. If you reach an agreement on child support outside of court it needs to be in writing, signed by both parents, and filed with the court. If you end up presenting your case to a judge, the judge’s order needs to be filed with the court. Oral agreements are not enforceable.
If you are hesitant to proceed with filing a divorce because of the financial impact on your child, you are doing everything right by finding the information you need to make an educated decision.
Below, you can find 5 common myths surrounding child support in California to help you make informed decisions for you and your child moving forward.
1. The court must follow California’s child support guidelines
While judges in California typically adhere to child support guidelines, they may deviate from these guidelines if there is legal reason.
Some reasons the court can make exceptions to the child support guidelines include:
- You and your ex agree on a different agreement that is still fair for everyone involved
- The sale of the family residence is deferred and the rental value exceeds the mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance and property taxes
- You or your ex are not contributing to your child’s needs at a level that’s fair for the amount of custodial time you have
- You or your ex have other custodial arrangements with different children
- Your child has special medical or other needs
- You and your ex share equally in the time they spend with your children, but you don’t share equally in terms of financial support
- The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the support amount exceeds the child’s needs
As every child custody arrangement is different, it is important to identify how a judge can act outside child support guidelines so that you may be prepared if they decide to do so.
2. Parents forfeit their visitation rights when they do not pay support
In California, child custody agreements and child support arrangements are mutually exclusive. This means, once agreements and arrangements have been finalized, one is not dependent on the other.
Failure to pay child support does not give you or the other parent the right to withhold visitation, nor does it necessarily mean the court will decide to revoke custody rights from you or the other parent. Your remedy if the other parent is not paying child support is to file a motion to establish arrears, enforcement remedies and contempt.
3. The parent that files for divorce gets custody of the children
When deciding whether or not to proceed with filing divorce, it is important to make your decision based on what is best for you and your family. While this myth may encourage you to file before your spouse, the court does not consider who files first.
However, filing first can mean you will not be taken off guard, and it can give you the opportunity to prepare before proceeding. If you believe your spouse is about to file for divorce, you can start taking steps toward preparing for court in case court becomes unavoidable.
Ultimately, you want to make the best decision for both you and your children. This will provide you with the best chance of securing financial resources for your child, whether or not you filed first.
4. Mothers always receive support for the children
This myth surrounding parental support obligations derives from when mothers traditionally stayed home with their children while the father worked.
While this factor tipped the scales in court in the past, the court recognizes that household roles are no longer gender-specific and that not every family involves a “mother” and a “father.” In California, there is no law stating a father cannot receive child support.
Instead of deciding who receives support for your child based on your and the parent’s gender, a judge will assess income or earning capacity if there is under-employment and timeshare.
5. A family law attorney can’t help you any more than you can help yourself
When navigating custody and support for your child, you do not necessarily need a lawyer to represent you. However, you can put yourself at a disadvantage if you do not get legal assistance.
When researching and developing legal arguments, a lawyer’s experience can provide you with the direction you need to attain your desired outcome. It is not always necessary to go to court, and an experienced family law firm can coordinate an agreement without having to involve a judge.
Additionally, it is not easy to modify some agreements in the divorce or paternity agreement. Working with an attorney can help you retain your ability to modify a child support order if a change of circumstances arises.
Navigating support for your child
In California, you and the other parent can make decisions for your child without the court’s involvement. With the right attorney, you may be able to find mediation that allows you to handle these decisions privately.
You and the other parent know the relationships within your family better than anyone else, and including a mediator can allow you to decide on a legal agreement together.
At Alaimo Boyer, we are dedicated to finding a fair and equitable solution for you and your family. We can work together to find a solution that empowers you, the other parent, and your children to move toward an outcome that honors everyone’s best interests.
For support through this difficult time, contact us so we can discuss your situation and aim to come to an agreement without going to court.