If child support is just a calculation, why do I need a lawyer?

Under California law, both parents have an obligation to provide financial support their children, but only one parent actually writes the check for practical reasons. All courts across California use the same child support guidelines, with the same factors, to calculate the amount one parent will pay to the other.

The California Department of Child Support Services even has a calculator available on its website to estimate support payments. If it is such a standard calculation that involves plugging in a few numbers, why do you need a lawyer to help? We only need to look at the first number entry on every available calculator to answer this question.

The first important financial number in every calculation is the net disposable income of both parties, but how much do mom and dad make? Let us start with wages. A W-2 can be very helpful in determining how much someone makes, but what if the other parent is self-employed? Could you just use the most recent tax return? You could, but you may not be entering a number that is fair for you.

Tax laws allow self-employed parents to deduct many expenses as business expenses on their tax return, but some of those allowed deductions are considered income for child support purposes. Parents who control their own income also have the ability to structure the business so it appears as though they earn less than they do in reality.

What about other sources of income? Bonuses are included in income. The use of a company car can be considered income. Supplemental Security Income benefits are not. General assistance and general relief are not included, but what do those encompass? Simply put, child support calculations are not as simple as they seem.

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    Attorneys Paul Gavin and Wayne Dersch are certified as a family law specialists. Learn More