Does Joint Custody Mean Neither Parent Pays Child Support?
One of the most contentious aspects of many family law cases is child custody — and the order to pay child support that often accompanies custody determinations. In some cases, one parent has primary physical custody of the kids, and the other parent is ordered to pay child support. But if the parents share physical custody equally, then the calculation may change.
You may assume that a 50/50 custody arrangement means that you won’t have to pay child support. However, custody isn’t the only factor that goes into determining support payments. The income of each parent must be considered as part of the calculation. In situations where one parent out earns the other, that parent may be required to pay child support — even if custody is split equally.
If you are involved in a child custody and support case, a San Diego child support lawyer can advocate for you throughout the process. This may include an argument for why you should not have to pay child support — or why your ex should have to pay child support.
Determining Child Support in California
In California, child support is a monetary payment that a court orders one parent to pay to the other for their shared child’s living expenses. Under California law, every parent has a duty to financially support their child or children, according to the parent’s situation and station in life. The obligation to pay child support begins when a court makes an order for support.
Child support payments are typically made until the kids turn 18 (or 19, if they are still in high school full-time, are living at home, and cannot support themselves financially). The amount of child support is determined based on a number of factors. Custody is just one of the items that are considered in making a decision on child support.
The California Family Code provides a uniform guideline for determining child support. The components of the formula include:
- Each parent’s gross income
- Each parent’s monthly net disposable income (after taxes, health premiums, and other expenses)
- Each parent’s share of primary physical custody and visitation time
Plugging these numbers into a formula results in a child support payment amount. The state provides an online calculator that can be used to estimate child support payments.
The amount of child support determined by this formula is presumed to be correct. However, there are situations where it may be necessary to deviate from these general guidelines. For example, if one parent is a particularly high earner, then a higher support amount may be ordered. A court may also deviate from these guidelines when:
- The parties have agreed to a different amount
- One parent is not contributing to the child’s needs in a way that commiserates with their custodial time
- Application of the formula would be unjust because (1) parents have different custody agreements for different kids; (2) parents have substantially equal custody, but one parent has a higher cost of living; (3) the child or children have special medical or other needs; or (4) a child is found to have more than 2 parents.
A judge may also order a parent to contribute “add-ons” for the benefit of the children. This may include money for child care costs, uninsured healthcare costs, and travel-related expenses for visitation, education, or special needs.
How Is Child Support Calculated in 50/50 Custody Situations
There are two main factors that courts use to determine child support in California: custody and income. If parents have a joint custody arrangement that results in the child spending 50% of their time with each parent, then custody is less of a factor in this calculation. However, a 50/50 child support arrangement does not mean that neither parent will be required to pay child support.
Instead, the court may consider the income and earning potential of both parents. The spouse with the higher income may be ordered to pay child support, even where they have equal physical custody of their children.
This may seem unfair, as each parent has an obligation to financially support their children. However, placing an equal financial burden on both parents may not be just in many cases. For example, if one parent earns a high income working in finance, and the other parent works as a teacher for a relatively low salary, putting an equal financial burden on both parents may result in a far heavier burden for the teacher.
California’s child support laws are based on the principle that each parent is obligated to support their children financially — according to their situation. More importantly, child support isn’t a punishment for a parent who is required to pay it. It is meant for the children and is ordered in the best interest of the child.
Of course, there are situations where a 50/50 custody arrangement may result in no child support. If each parent has a similar income and they split custody evenly, then there may not be a child support obligation for each parent. A San Diego child support lawyer can help you determine if you will be required to pay child support based on the facts of your case.
How We Can Help
Whether you are in the process of getting a divorce or if you share a child with someone who you aren’t married to, determining both child custody and support can be difficult. Even in situations where you share joint custody with your ex, you may still be required to pay child support.
The Law Office of Renkin & Associates represents clients in a range of California family law cases, including child support matters. With more than two decades of experience, our team is well-equipped to handle your family law case. To learn more or to schedule a case evaluation, call us at 619-304-4760, or contact us online.