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Keeping Your Kids from Being Pawns in the Battle for Child Support

It would probably come as a surprise to a person unfamiliar with the vagaries of the California Family Code, to learn that the court must order child support payments based on the number of hours the child spends with either parent (which includes sleeping hours). The payments are calculated using an algebraic formula fed into a computer. This procedure is mandatory under California Family Code section 4052-4057.

Thus, the non-custodial parent has a financial incentive to disrupt the child's school homework routine by having the child sleep over in the middle of the school week, so those hours sleeping can reduce the non-custodial parent's child support payments.

The use of children as pawns in battles between the parents over money can be avoided by keeping the issue of determining who pays child support, and all other issues, out of court by use of Collaborative Divorce.

In Collaborative Divorce, the two spouses and their attorneys sign an agreement to work together as a team to reach agreements on visitation, support payments, and division of property, which are fair and reasonable for both spouses and for the children. A paper is filed notifying the court that it is a Collaborative Divorce case, and the court puts the case aside while the parties negotiate the agreement that ultimately becomes the stipulated Judgment, which can finalize the divorce at any time after six months from the date of service of the Petition for Dissolution.

On the other hand, any parent who prefers the court system to Collaborative Divorce, can predict child support payments from California Family Code section 4055(a), which requires the court to use the following algebraic formula:

CS = K [HN -(H%) (TN)]
CS = child support amount;
K = (1 + H%){if H% is 50% or less } or (2-H%){if H% is greater than 50%} times 0.25 {or a different factor depending on the total net disposable income per month} (Family Code. §§4055(b)(3))
HN = high earner's net monthly disposable income;
H% = approximate percentage of time high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent;
TN = total net monthly disposable income of both parties. (See Family Code section 4055(b)(1))


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Either parent may be ordered to pay an amount necessary for the support, maintenance and education of the child. Child support is calculated using the California child support guidelines. An amount different from that which is produced using the guidelines may be ordered based on specific deviation factors and also at the discretion of the court.
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