Why do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Share 50/50 Custody?
When parents are together, it is assumed that each parent will take an active role in the upbringing of the child. However, when parents divorce or separate, the child cannot have both parents available in the home every day. Courts in California encourage parents to develop parenting plans that ensure parents continue to play an active role in their child’s life.
Joint custody arrangements encourage ongoing relationships between both parents and children. The parents share physical and legal custody of their child. The child is with each parent half of the time or as close to half of the time as possible.
Child Support and Child Custody are Separate Issues
Child support and child custody are separate issues. For example, you cannot deny visitation between your child and ex-partner if your ex-partner is behind on child support payments.
If you deny visitation under a court order, you could face court sanctions for denying visitation. Instead, you must follow legal procedures for enforcing a child support obligation.
Calculating Child Support in California
Parents share responsibility for the financial support of their children. When parents get divorced, financial support must be divided between them. Physical custody is a factor in how child support is calculated in California.
Many parents assume that when they share physical custody, there is no child support. Since the parents split the time the child spends in their home equally, they pay their share of financial expenses for the child when the child is in their home. The child is with each parent 50 percent of the time, so each parent has met their “equal” financial obligation to support their child.
However, it is possible for one parent to be responsible for child support payments even though the parents are sharing custody because there are other factors used in calculating child support other than physical custody.
Factors that are used to calculate child support in California include:
- Childcare needs and education costs for the child;
- Parenting plans and physical custody arrangements;
- The number and age of children living in the home;
- A child’s special needs;
- Health insurance premiums and health care costs;
- Support received by parents for other children;
- Each parent’s tax filing status;
- Each parent’s liabilities, debts, and assets; and,
- Each parent’s income and earning potential.
Therefore, when a judge considers other factors to calculate child support, a parent who is earning substantially more than the other parent could pay child support, even though the parents share physical custody equally.
A parent with 50-50 custody arrangements may argue that he or she should not pay child support to the other parent. However, when a parent earns significantly more than the other parent, splitting the financial support for the child equally could result in an undue financial burden for the parent earning less money.
By requiring a parent who earns substantially more to pay child support in a 50-50 custody arrangement, the court is attempting to create an even financial burden for both parents. In other words, parents should expect to pay child support based on their ability to pay, not merely on how many nights they spend with their child each year.
Child Support Guidelines in California
Parents can agree between themselves what each parent will pay to support their child financially after a divorce. Decisions are always reviewable by a court because the court is acting in the child’s best interest.
However, California does have a Statewide Uniform Guideline for child support. The guideline provides a standard child support formula that courts use when calculating child support. As stated above, courts may also consider other factors, in addition to the standard guidelines, when determining child support obligations.
Using child support guidelines should be simple. The guidelines are intended to create a fair and equitable method for dividing financial support for a child between divorced parents.
However, depending on your situation, the guidelines may not be fair and equitable. There may be other factors that the court needs to consider to ensure that you and your child receive the financial support you need from your child’s other parent. This need is regardless of how your parenting plan divides physical time with your child.
Working with an experienced child custody attorney can be beneficial. A child custody lawyer understands how to calculate child support based on the standard child support equation. However, your attorney also understands how to use the factors in your case to develop a persuasive argument for the judge to order your child’s other parent to pay additional support payments, if justified and necessary.