Determining which parents have legal and physical custody of a child and what, if any, child support is to be paid are often issues that are both worked out during a divorce proceeding, or, if the parents were never married, may nevertheless be established in court at around the same time. Parents who are negotiating between themselves on these issues – or just “discussing” the issues of custody and support more informally – are often confused as to how these two issues impact each other under California law. In fact, one of the more common questions that parents seeking joint custody (or “50/50 custody”) is whether either parents would need to pay child support in light of the shared custody arrangement.
Child Custody and Child Support Are Determined Separately
The short answer is that a parent who is awarded joint custody of a child with the other parent may still be required to pay child support to the other parent for the needs of the child. Determining child custody and the amount of child support that should be paid are two different matters under California law, although the custody arrangement will impact the amount of child support that is paid.
Reaching an Agreement on Custody and Support
It’s important to point out that parents can reach an agreement between themselves (with the potential assistance of a mediator and/or attorneys) regarding custody and child support, and so long as the agreement they reach is fair under California law, a family court judge should honor and approve whatever agreement is reached. Thus, the time-sharing plan (which involves the physical custody of the child) and the amount of child support, if any, that should be paid are issues that spouses can discuss and negotiate amongst themselves.
When The Court Decides
If the spouses cannot reach an agreement regarding either custody or child support, the judge will make this determination. If there is a shared physical custody situation between the parents, then the court may take that into consideration when determining the amount of child support that one parent should pay to the other as child support.
In California, the amount of child support that is paid is based off an initial calculation that the judge will run based on a statewide formula. The factors that go into this child support formula are as follows:,
- The actual income or income potential of each parent
- Other non-work income received by each parent
- The number of children the parents have together
- The custody arrangement of the parents (how much time is spent with the children)
- The tax filing statuses of the parents
- Any support received from other relationships
- Health insurance costs
- Mandatory union dues and retirement contributions
- Shared costs for raising the children, including day care costs
- Any other relevant factors
Thus, the custody arrangement is one factor among many that a court will assess in determining a child support plan.
Speak With an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Although you may just be contemplating a divorce or are in the beginning stages of a divorce, due to the fact that childraising costs and child support obligations can be so significant, it is important to speak with a California family law attorney who is experienced in reaching positive child support and custody arrangements. Contact the Law Office of Kelly Finan today to schedule a consultation to discuss your circumstances.