In California, child support is predominately determined by two factors. The first factor is each parent’s monthly net disposable income. The second factor is the percentage of time per month that each parent provides care for the child. This is commonly referred to as the “J factor”.
Income. A parent’s disposable monthly income includes formal sources of personal revenue that are taxed by the state of California and the federal government as well as non-traditional sources of income. Types of income include the following: wages, commissions, tips, bonuses, self-employment earnings, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, interest, dividends, social security, pensions, lottery winnings and money from rental properties. The amount that a parent must pay each month for child support is partially determined by the percentage of the couple’s combined income.
Deductions. Child support has more determining factors than just the couple’s earnings. Certain payments and expenses are reduced from these sources of income. Typical deductions include taxes, other child support payments, other child care expenses, healthcare costs, job search expenses, home mortgage payments, required contributions towards retirement and union dues. It is important to note that other child support payments must be court ordered or they won’t be eligible as deductions. Also, the parent must actually be making these child support payments for the money to qualify as a deduction. Parents will not be allowed to deduct subsequent child support payments from their income.
The Calculation. After all the sources of income and eligible expenses and payments are determined, the net disposable monthly income can be calculated for each parent. The court uses these figures along with the percentage of time that each parent spends caring for their child to determine the exact amount of child support payments. Courts expect that a parent who spends more time with the child will incur significantly more expenses. It is quite common for parents, attorneys and the court to run calculations according to the above guidelines and come up with completely different figures. This happens because each party has their own personal opinions as to how much time each parent spends with their child, the number of exemptions claimed by the parents, what sources of income actually exist and which ones are taxable.
These discrepancies are exactly why parents need legal representation. A family law attorney will be able to protect your financial interests and help you keep your emotions separate from your financial and legal concerns. Remember that child support payments will extend all the way until the child turns 18 years old. This means that there is the potential for enormous child support costs over the long haul as well as the opportunity to re-calculate monthly child support payments throughout the years. An attorney will be able to negotiate with the judge to ensure that certain information is included or excluded from child support calculations. These calculations are run by a complex computer program known as the Dissomaster.
The key to obtaining an acceptable outcome from the Dissomaster’s calculation is to convince the judge to either allow or disallow key pieces of input from being entered into the Dissomaster’s calculations. To put it bluntly, judges have the power to shape child support payment determinations.