When you get divorced in California you have to make a lot of decisions about your future. If you have children, you’ll be required to make important decisions that will directly affect their lives, as well. Child custody and child support are two primary areas that must be settled before a divorce can be finalized.
Many parents make the mistake of assuming that if parents share custody, neither parent pays support. However, even in cases of joint custody, one parent may pay support.
Custody Decisions in California Divorces
California prefers that parents agree to share joint legal and physical custody of their children. This type of arrangement allows children of divorce to remain in frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is believed to be in their best interest. The best possible scenario would be one in which both parents share 50/50 custody of the kids, allowing each parent an equal share of visitation rights. As a result, the kids split their time evenly with both parents.
Sharing 50/50 Custody and Child Support
Yes, you can still request child support if you share 50/50 custody. In cases where parents have a disparity in income, the court may order child support. Where one parent makes more than the other, the court may believe it’s not fair to the children to rely on the lower-earning parent’s income alone while in their care.
In most cases of joint custody, the court calculates child support as if each parent has primary custody. They determine what each parent would pay if they were the paying parent.
A court can consider the income and earning potential of both parents and order the spouse with the higher income to pay child support. This may seem counterintuitive since child support is typically thought of as a tool to ensure that both parents remain active in caring for their child’s needs. The custodial parent is often not responsible for child support because they are physically present in their child’s life for a majority of the time and have daily out-of-pocket expenses in caring for that child. Support payments help to ensure that the non-custodial parent is meeting his or her parental obligations to care for their child.
Why would a parent who enjoys 50/50 custody be required to pay child support? The answer really comes down to finances. If that parent earns significantly more than the other parent, it may be necessary to require that parent to pitch in more, financially. Placing an equal financial burden on both parents may not be realistic and could create an undue burden on the lesser-earning parent.
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This is intended as general advice and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Each situation is unique and requires specific analysis of relevant contracts, facts and legal obligations.