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Christina: This is Christina. Today, we are going to talk about how to do a spousal support calculation without having to purchase the DissoMaster program and without running any support calculation program yourself.
Ed: Christina, what are some of the ways I can figure out how much the temporary spousal support amount should be, without me having to go out and buy the DissoMaster calculation software and without me having to spend the time learning how to use the program?
Christina: There are a number of ways you can figure out how much the spousal support number should be without having to purchase the DissoMaster program. A good option is to go to the courthouse where you filed your divorce petition. Almost all courthouses will have computer terminals available to the public that have the DissoMaster software. Sometimes these computer terminals are located in the courthouse lobby. Sometimes they are located in the courtrooms that handle family law cases. Sometimes these computer terminals are located in the law library. Some courts have these terminals located in all three locations. Just ask one of the family law clerks where there is a computer terminal with DissoMaster that you can use. Sit down at one of the terminals, click on the DissoMaster icon. Run your calculation and then print the calculation.
If you don’t want to run the calculation yourself, ask the Family Law Facilitator to run the calculation for you. All courts have Family Law Facilitators. These are court staff and are frequently attorneys. Their job is to help the public with family law matters. They will help you fill out your divorce paperwork. They will help you apply for a domestic violence restraining orders. Most Family Law Facilitators will also run a DissoMaster support calculation for you. Their services are free. If you are going to use the Family Law Facilitator to run your support calculation for you, before you go to the court, check the court’s website to see when the Facilitator will be available at your court. For most courts, the Family Law Facilitators will only be available on certain days and certain hours. Be prepared to wait a long time at the court before you will meet with the Facilitator.
Ed: I have heard about a free child support calculator that is online – can I use that free calculator to run my temporary spousal support calculation?
Christina: You can go online and use the State of California child support calculator for free. Go to www.childsup.ca.gov/resources/calculatechildsupport.aspx. or just Google “State of California child support calculator”. This is a site maintained by the State of California. It includes a child support calculator that you can use for free. It also includes detailed instructions on how to run the program. Even though this free online calculator is for child support, it can sometimes also be used to calculate spousal support. This online calculator will calculate just child support. If child support is part of the calculation, it will also calculate spousal support. However, if spousal support is the only support issue, this free online calculator won’t work for just spousal support.
Ed: If the State of California has its own support calculator for free online, why would I bother with the DissoMaster support program?
Christina: Because, even though the State of California puts out its own support calculation program, the courts use the DissoMaster program to run support calculations. The DissoMaster program is a much better program, with lots of bells and whistles that the free state software program does not include. There are certain types of cases where the court does not use the DissoMaster program but instead uses the State of California child support calculator. These are DCSS cases. DCSS stands for the Department of Child Support Services.
Ed: What are DCSS cases?
Christina: Each county has an agency, known as the Department of Child Support Services or “DCSS”. If you go to DCSS and open a file, they will file the necessary papers with the court to obtain a fair child support order for you and they will provide their services free of charge regardless of the amount of your income. We talked about DCSS cases in the child support videos and won’t repeat that information again. DCSS only gets involved if children are part of the case. If we are only talking about child support, DCSS will take the case. If the case involves both child support and spousal support, DCSS will handle the case. However, if there are no kids and you are only dealing with spousal support, DCSS won’t handle the case.
Ed: Christina, are there any other ways to figure out an appropriate amount of spousal support, without buying the DissoMaster support program?
Christina: Yes. Another option you may want to consider is contacting a family law attorney in your area and pay that attorney to run the spousal support calculation for you. It should not take much time for an attorney to run the support calculation for you if you are properly prepared. You are not hiring a local attorney to do your divorce. You are only paying the attorney for a half-hour or an hour of his or her time to just run the support calculation for you. This is a really good option for people that don’t have the time to figure out all of the intricacies of how to run the very complicated support computer programs.
Ed: If I am going to hire an attorney to run the spousal support calculation for me, how should I prepare for my meeting with the attorney?
Christina: If you decide to hire a local attorney to run the support calculation for you, be prepared when you go to meet with the attorney. If you are not prepared, you will waste your time and money. In order to be properly prepared, you should bring with you copies of your last two federal income tax returns, copies of last year’s W-2 forms for both you and your spouse, and copies of the most recent pay stubs for both you and your spouse. If you and/or your spouse are self-employed, bring a current profit & loss statement for your business. If you own a home, bring a current mortgage statement. Also, know how much both you and your spouse will each be paying for health insurance after the divorce is concluded.
After the attorney runs the support calculation, have the attorney give you a printout of the calculation, including any bonus charts. You may want to attach the printout to your divorce judgment. You may be able to find a local attorney that will offer an initial free divorce consultation and the attorney may be willing to run the support calculation as part of the free consultation.
If you are going to meet with an attorney, first check with your employer to see if your employer participates in any legal plans. Many employers do. These legal plans typically agree to provide 30 minutes or an hour of free legal consultations. This may be a way to get your spousal support calculation done for a fee.