Welcome to FreeDivorce.com.
Christina: This is Christina.
Ed: This is Ed. Today, are going to talk about very basic concepts regarding child support. There is a lot to know about child support and we can’t cover all the issues in just one video. We have a series of videos on child support.
Ed: Christina, what are the basics regarding child support?
Christina: California law requires parents to support their children. Child support is owed until the child turns 18 years old. If the child turns 18 and is still a full-time student, then child support continues to be owed until the child graduates from high school. For example, if a child turns 18 years old in January of their senior year in high school and graduates the following June, child support is going to be owed until the child graduates. However, even if a child is a full-time student, if they have not graduated from high school by age 19, then child support ends upon their 19th birthday.
Ed: Can a parent be obligated to support a child beyond the age of 18 and graduate from high school?
Christina: In rare instances, if you have a child that is an adult, but is incapacitated so they are incapable of earning a living and if they do not have sufficient means to support themselves, then both parents can have a legal obligation to support the child beyond the age of 19 and the family law court can make orders requiring the parents to support the child.
Ed: Are there any other times when child support can extend beyond the age of 18 and graduation from high school?
Christina: If parents agree in their divorce settlement to continue child support beyond the age of 18, the courts will enforce that agreement. From time to time, in my practice, I come across marital settlement agreements where a parent has agreed to pay child support until a child turns 21 years old. The courts will enforce that agreement. The court does not have jurisdiction, which means the legal authority, to order child support to be paid beyond the age of 18 and graduation from high school, except in the case of an adult child’s incapacity, but if the parents agree in a marital settlement contract that child support will extend beyond age 18, then the courts will enforce that agreement.
Ed: What about the cost of going to college, do parents have a legal obligation to pay for or contribute towards the cost of a child’s college education?
Christina: Courts do not have jurisdiction to order a parent to pay for their child’s college education. However, just like a parent can agree to pay child support beyond the age of 18, if a parent agrees to pay for part or all of a child’s college education expenses as part of a divorce settlement agreement, then the court will enforce that agreement.
Ed: Is child support that I pay tax-deductible?
Christina: No. Child support is not tax-deductible by the payor and not taxable income to the recipient.
Ed: Is the child support I pay limited to a certain amount of money that I pay my ex-spouse every month?
Christina: No. There are various elements to a proper child support order. First, there is the “base” amount of child support to be paid. For example, a father may pay the mother $500 per month in base child support. The base amount of child support is usually calculated using a computer program. In addition to the base amount of child support, a proper child support order should include provisions about who will maintain health insurance coverage for the child or children and how any out-of-pocket health care costs will be shared. A proper child support agreement should also include provisions about sharing the costs of child care; the cost of extra-curricular activities; and which party will claim the child as an exemption on future income tax returns. A child support order can also include other provisions. For example, if the parents what, a child support order could include provisions that require one or both parents to maintain life insurance coverage so the money will be available to support the children if one parent dies. As previously mentioned, a child support agreement can also include a provision for the parents to share the cost of a child’s education.
Ed: You mentioned that the base amount of child support is typically calculated using a computer program. How does that work?
Christina: If you were to look at the child support laws for the State of California, you would see that the laws include a specific mathematical formula for calculating the base amount of child support that should be paid. The base child support number that the mathematical formula produces is called the “guideline” number. The child support formula is so complicated that you need a computer program to run the calculation. There are different child support computer software programs that are marketed. The programs go by different names, such as DissoMaster, XSpouse, SupportTax, and CalSupportPRO. They all produce about the same numbers. The variations in the numbers from program to the program are typically very small.
Ed: Do the courts use any particular computer program to calculate the base child support number?
Christina: Yes. Most all of the courts in California use the program that is called DissoMaster. We are going to talk about how the DissoMaster program works in the following videos.