Orange County Child Support FAQ

How is child support calculated in an Orange County family law case?

The amount of child support is based on a state mandated formula. In divorce and family law cases, judges rely heavily on an accepted computer program called “dissomaster” or “x-spouse” when ruling on child support. This program takes into consideration a number of factors and after inputting each party’s time share with the child or children. Each party’s incomes, tax filing status as well as other issues such as certain deductions from the income, the program provides a child support amount which generally becomes the order of the court.

Additional amounts are generally ordered for child care expenses such as daycare as well as health care costs and split evenly between the parents.

How long will the court order child support to be paid?

The rule is this: until the child reaches the age of majority, or age 18. However, if the child is unmarried and a full-time high school student, then support is extended until that child completes high school or turns 19.

Do I have to pay child support even when I don’t believe I can afford it because my income is low?

Yes, but realize that the amount of child support is based in large part on your income.  Therefore, if the amount of child support is truly beyond your income level, then a recalculation of the child support amount is in order as you may be paying too much.

Judges in Orange County may also make low-income adjustment for those who make below a certain amount of money per year.

What if one of us has remarried or has a significant other in our life – is the partner or the new spouse’s income considered when calculating child support?

Not child support except in very limited cases.  The income of the new spouse or significant other and that person’s contribution must generally be extraordinary to be considered.

I have a current order for child support but want to modify it. How do I do that?

You file a formal written request called an order to show cause or motion with the court asking that the judge modify the existing order.  You must attach certain mandatory forms with the request including an income and expense declaration and depending on whether your current child support order is below, at or above current California guideline amounts, the court will determine if you need to show a change of circumstance to modify it.

I am still paying child support, but the children live with me now & our custody arrangement has changed. Do I have to keep paying?

Yes but you need to immediately file a formal request with the court through a process called an order to show cause to modify the child support amount to put a stop to it.  Do not rely on verbal or even written agreements that are not signed by the court in these situations.  The smartest, safest and most effective way of ensuring that you are paying less support because the children now live with you is to seek a formal modification.

My spouse has said that if I ask for child support, my spouse will fight to get custody of the children. Can my spouse do that?

This is what we call using the kids as “leverage”.  It is sadly more common than most people think.  In short, your spouse can threaten it but a good lawyer always brings the threat to the attention of the court and I assure you Orange County judges in divorce cases are not pleased when they hear that such threats are made.  Do not let such threats dissuade you from seeking child support.  More often than not, these threats are veiled threats and the spouse making the threat is left with little credibility and even less custody.

I have a current order for child support but want to modify it.  How do I do that?

Child support modifications start with a formal written request to the court for modification. This is called an order to show cause (which recently changed its name to “request for order”) Getting a court order is a must. Relying on informal agreements can be very risky because they are often unenforceable. The child support modification request includes a declaration under penalty of perjury by you as to the reason for the modification. Depending on your situation, you may need to show a significant change of circumstances from the last order to justify a modification. What factual scenarios do or do not require such a showing can be complicated and the advice of an experienced family law lawyer is important. You must also file a current income and expense declaration (judicial council form FL-150) that lists all sources of income you have. Once the required paperwork is filed, it is then served on the other parent. If the parents are not able to resolve the issue, the court will review each parent’s declarations and decide what guideline child support should be.