A question I am often asked is, “How much is child support?” The honest answer does not bring much comfort to my clients: “It depends.”
Child support is a calculation that the State of California has determined to be appropriate for child support. The calculation considers many factors, including the income of both parties, how much time each parent spends with the children, tax deductions and credits, other children the parent must support, and numerous other factors. The considerations are not a dollar-for-dollar deduction, but rather factors of a larger picture that will influence the end result: the amount of child support paid from one parent to the other.
Argued frequently is the definition of “income.” Complications often arise when the number for a parent’s income is not readily apparent or easily determined. Perhaps Dad is not working and is supported entirely by his parents. Consider if Mom owns a small business and runs many household expenses through the business for tax purposes. Both parents have an obligation to support their children, and in situations like these, the Court will make a determination of the parent’s income available to support the child.
In the first example, Dad receives monthly deposits from his parents to pay all of his expenses, including rent, food, transportation, utilities, and entertainment. Dad receives this money consistently and predictably. It can be argued that the money deposited into Dad’s account is his income, tax-free, and that amount should be used to determine what child support will be.
In the second example, Mom’s small business is thriving, and she uses the business to write off a large portion of her expenses on her taxes each year. After deduction of expenses such as transportation, meals, and a portion of her rent each month, Mom claims that she earns no income and cannot pay support. It can be argued that some of Mom’s expenses should be considered income available to her; after all, both parents have to pay these expenses, and Mom shouldn’t get out of paying child support just because she owns a business. A closer look can be taken at the write-offs on Mom’s taxes and presented to the Court as income available for support.
These are theoretical situations on a case-by-case basis, but the concept is the same: sometimes “income” is not so easily determined. You can ask the Court to impute income to the other parent, essentially asking the Court to order support based on what the other parent should or could be earning (more on that in the future). A skilled attorney can assist you in the examination of your specific situation, and see if some out-of-the-box thinking will result in a fair and equitable child support award.
- Shauna M. Albright,
Founding and Managing Attorney of Albright Family Law Group
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