J.D. Harvard Law School ‘73
M.A. Columbia University
B.A. Yale University
Mediator, Judge Pro-Tem
Certified Family Law Specialist
licensed by the State Bar of California
Stan is a member of the
San Diego North County Bar Association.
Licensed to practice in California, Maryland, Washington D.C., & Georgia
Child support tends to be a dirty word to the high earner spouse in a divorce. He or she is likely to come away thinking the amounts ordered by the court are grossly unfair, and much too high. They are also likely to think that they have been singled out to suffer more than their similarly situated friends.
Unless your attorney has been asleep at the switch, these perceptions are unwarranted as far as child support is concerned. The California legislature has bent over backwards to make child support orders both fair and consistent, and in the vast majority of cases they are.
Child support must be calculated according to a complex formula set forth in the Family Code. It is complex because it is supposed to be perfectly fair, unlike the simple and arbitrary formulas used by other states. Except in rare cases, the only inputs are the average gross monthly incomes of the parties and the percentage of time each spends with the children.
Income is defined as it is in the Internal Revenue Code. Although the self-employed have more opportunities to cheat, pay stubs and tax returns are for most people dispositive of their incomes. The percentage of time each parent spends with the children is called their “time share.” Time share depends on the parties’ agreement, or if they can’t agree, on the court’s custody order.
There needn’t be wailing and gnashing of teeth over time share. The State is happy to help you. By law the judge cannot make a custody order until the parties participate in mediation with a Family Court Services mediator, and the mediator provides recommendations in a written report to the judge. The last page of the recommendations states the corresponding time share.
The theory here is that judges are not trained social workers, as the mediators must be, and should be guided by the mediator’s expert opinions. The practice is that judges usually adopt the recommendations whole hog, rather than agonize over the parties’ conflicting evidence and arguments. Voila! We now know the time share percentages. Into the computer they go, along with the parties’ incomes, and out comes who pays child support and how much it is.As you can see, this makes for consistency. If you still don’t think it’s fair, remember that the perfect is the enemy of the good.
Carlsbad Divorce Attorney Stanley D. Prowse is a Certified California Family Law attorney that specializes in all aspects of child custody and child support cases. We welcome your legal inquiries.
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