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Child and spousal support


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An overview of child support and spousal support in a California family law divorce action

Published in: Law
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Child and spousal support

  2. 2. Benefits of Child Support • After a divorce, one of the most important factors is maintaining a similar lifestyle for the children • Only custodial parents are eligible to receive child support payments. • Children who receive child support are more likely to: • Do well in school • Have increased security • Attend college
  3. 3. How to Obtain Child Support Payment of child support and the amount of child support that is to be paid can come about in one of three main ways: 1. Informal negotiations between the parents (usually with attorneys) 2. An out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceeding, similar to mediation 3. Court Order
  4. 4. Determining Child Support Which parent makes support payments to the other depends mostly on two factors: • where the kids spend their time, and • how much each parent earns.
  5. 5. How Does the Court Determine Child Support? • income and needs of the custodial parent • paying parent's ability to pay • child’s standard of living before divorce or separation • needs of the child -- including health insurance, education, day care, and special needs
  6. 6. How Does the Court Determine Amount of Child Support? • child support or alimony either parent receives from a previous marriage • whether either parent is paying child support or alimony from a previous marriage • whether either parent is responsible for children from a previous (or subsequent) marriage • which parent is paying for health insurance, and the cost • which parent is paying day care costs, and the cost • whether either parent is required to pay union dues or has other amounts deducted from paychecks ages of the children • whether either parent receives irregular income such as bonuses or incentive pay, or expects severance pay or other lump-sum payments, and • whether either parent lives with a new partner or spouse who contributes to household expenses.
  7. 7. What should child support be spent on? There is a growing misconception that child support should only cover a child’s bare necessities, such as food and clothing. Child support is meant to cover a broad range of expenses including: • education • entertainment • medical expenses • extracurricular activities • insurance
  8. 8. How to Pay Child Support • Sending checks directly to the recipient or electronically • Income withholding order (IWO) (also known as a wage assignment), making the paying spouse’s employer responsible for deducting the support amount from the paycheck and sending it • The recipient can register the child support order with your state’s child support enforcement agency, and the paying spouse (or the spouse’s employer) can pay the support to the agency, which in turn pays the recipient spouse
  9. 9. How to Modify Existing Child Support Orders • Payments may be increased or decreased under certain circumstances, such as: • Receipt of additional income • Job change of either parent • Cost of living increases • Disability incurred by either parent • Increased needs of the child • Temporary modifications include: • The child has a medical emergency • The child has educational expenses • The paying parent has a temporary inability to pay (loss of job or illness) • Temporary hardship of the recipient parent
  10. 10. What Happens if Child Support is Unpaid? • Withholding federal tax refunds • Garnishing wages • Seizing property • Suspending an occupational license • Suspending a business license • Revoking driver's license. • Jail time
  11. 11. When does Child Support Stop? • turns 18, or of legal age • becomes emancipated • joins the military • gets married
  12. 12. Where to Calculate Child Support • California Main Factors Used in Calculating Child Support [PDF] (California Courts) infactors.pdf • Statewide Uniform Guideline (California Family Code sections 4050- 4076) • Department of Child Support Services (California Dept of Social Services)
  13. 13. Benefits of Spousal Support Limit any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage earning or lower-wage earning spouse. Often times after divorce, one spouse is untrained or has been out of the workforce for such a significant amount of time that it becomes difficult for them to attain a job or professional position that allows them to maintain their expected standard of living.
  14. 14. Determining Who Pays Spousal Support • If parties cannot agree on spousal support, a court relies on state support guidelines that include the following: • Length of marriage • How the property is being divided • Couple’s standard of living during the marriage • Each spouse’s separate income, assets, and obligations • The age, physical condition, emotional state and financial condition of former spouses • The length of time the recipient would need for education or training to become self-sufficient • The ability of the payer spouse to support the recipient and still support themselves • Needs of the children, and whether child care responsibilities affect the dependent spouse’s ability to return to work • Debts and property • Whether there was domestic violence during the relationship • Whether one spouse’s career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home • Tax impact of spousal support • The possibility that either spouse may acquire assets in the future (such as the maturing of stock options or a large inheritance)
  15. 15. Negotiating Spousal Support Be aware of your spouse’s finances during negotiations: • Your spouse’s separate assets. If your spouse has separate assets, you’re entitled to know their value. • Income and expense information. You definitely want a detailed monthly income and expense report—which should be one of the forms your spouse is required to give you—to show you where your spouse’s money is going • Bonuses, overtime, and benefits. Don’t forget income from things like bonuses and overtime, even though they’re not completely predictable. Likewise, pay attention to things like stock options and the value of work- related benefits, such as unused vacation pay and sick pay, company-paid vehicles, and health insurance benefits.
  16. 16. Spousal Support Options • Lump-sum spousal support: • Granted in lieu of a property settlement • Fixed amount • Can be paid to the estate of the deceased recipient • Rehabilitative alimony: • Time specific • Provides the recipient with funds to obtain the job skills and education needed to become self-sufficient • Available to the stay-at-home parent • Permanent spousal support: • Continues until the recipient remarries or either party passes • Can be terminated or suspended if the recipient cohabitates with another partner
  17. 17. Spousal Support Options • Paying to third party: You can make payments through a third party considered as spousal support. Payments can include: • Medical costs • Housing expenses • Tuition • Anything else that is provided for under your divorce or settlement agreement
  18. 18. Modifying Spousal Support • If you’re negotiating an agreement about spousal support, you can state that the amount can’t change • If you want some future flexibility, you might state that the amount can change only if: • both ex-spouses agree • the court orders it • either spouse’s income changes by a specified percentage, or • one spouse becomes disabled • If you don’t have a modification provision in your settlement agreement, and you can’t agree later to a change, then your state’s law will control the matter. Most courts allow modification if there is a significant change of circumstances. Some states, however, won’t modify spousal support at all—they allow courts to make orders only about child support after the divorce is final, no matter what happens
  19. 19. When does Spousal Support Stop • Death of either spouse (To avoid losing spousal support upon a death, be sure to get a life insurance policy with the recipient spouse as the beneficiary) • Remarriage of the recipient • Recipient lives with another party, generally recognized as a couple • Continuation of alimony is a financial hardship or unfair treatment • Once spousal support is terminated, it cannot be reinstated