What Deductions Are Made from Gross Income for Child Support Purposes?

Child support is a vital decision in family law matters. A court examines the income of both parents when determining child support payments.

Income considered will be each parent’s annual gross income; however, some items and expenses can be subtracted for the purpose of calculating child support. California Family Code § 4059 lists these possible deductions.

For instance, income tax liability is deducted from annual gross income. This does not mean that taxes withheld from a parent’s paycheck will be deducted. The income tax liability is the tax an individual is responsible for paying to the IRS or the state after completing his or her annual tax return filings.

Although income tax withheld from one’s paycheck is not deductible from annual gross income, Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) withholdings are deducted.

Other work-related expenses may be deducted from annual gross income for the purpose of determining child support. When this happens, work-related expenses are reviewed to make sure that the expenses were truly necessary or required. Such deductions can include mandatory union dues, mandatory retirement benefits, and/or health insurance premiums (including health insurance premiums for any children that the parent is required to insure).

If a parent is responsible for a child or children of a previous relationship, any child support payments that are made on behalf of that child may be deducted from the parent’s annual gross income, as well. It is important to note that only payments actually made can be deducted. Child support payments may have been ordered but not actually paid—if this is the case, that amount will not be considered deductible from income.

In some cases, a parent can request a deduction for a hardship. If the court determines that a hardship is applicable, the approved calculated amount of the hardship is deducted from that parent’s annual gross income.

If you need assistance in a family law proceeding, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Included in Income for the Purpose of California Child Support?

The state of California takes into consideration the income of both parents when determining child support payments. Sources of income will vary from person to person.

Section 4058 of the California Family Code provides that annual gross income can come from a combination of “commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits, and spousal support actually received from a person not a party to the proceeding.”

Other sources of income will include that from a business owned by the individual after subtracting the expenses of the business from the revenue. A court may also consider employee benefits or self-employment benefits as part of a parent’s annual gross income if those benefits come in exchange for—or at the expense of—potential income for the receipt of those benefits.

There is income that is not taken into consideration for the determination of child support, as well. Child support received to benefit children from a previous relationship is not considered income for determining support for the child(ren) of the current relationship. Other items that are not considered include public assistance benefits received based on need.

Sometimes, a parent will attempt to avoid being ordered to pay child support by quitting his or her job or taking a lower-paying position or an intentional pay cut. When a parent takes these steps to avoid paying child support, the court may take into consideration the income of that parent’s new spouse or even a new partner to whom the person is not married.

A court may also hold such a parent accountable by evaluating that parent’s income potential. The court can look at how much income that parent could have made. This is known as imputing income.

If you want to learn more about child support matters in California, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We can help. Call us today to make an appointment: (415) 293-8314.

How Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Work in California?

How Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Work in California?

A domestic violence restraining order is a civil order entered by the court directing an abuser to stop harassing or abusing the victim. The type of abuse that may be the basis for the entry of a restraining order includes the following:

  • causing or attempting to cause the victim physical injury;
  • making the victim fear he or she or another person is in immediate danger of being harmed;
  • threatening or harassing the victim, in person or through other means;
  • stalking the victim;
  • destroying the victim’s personal property; or
  • disturbing the peace of the victim.

For the court to enter a domestic violence restraining order, the abuser must be related to the victim in one of the following ways:

  • a spouse or former spouse;
  • a person the victim is dating or has dated;
  • a lover;
  • the other parent of your child;
  • anyone closely related to the victim by blood, marriage, or adoption; or
  • a person who regularly lives in the victim’s home.

A domestic violence restraining order may provide protection for the victim’s children as well as the victim. Such a restraining order can also include other orders besides a command to stop the abuse. For example, a domestic violence restraining order may include an order regarding spousal support, custody, child support, or parenting time; granting the victim possession of a pet; removing the abuser from a home shared with the victim; or prohibiting the abuser from possessing a firearm.

A victim seeking a domestic violence restraining order must file an application with the court. The application includes a Domestic Violence Date of Birth Verification (Form FL/E-LP-640), a Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV 109), a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100 and FL/E-LP-613), a Description of Abuse (Form DV-101), and a Temporary Restraining Order (DV-110). Additional forms must be filed if the victim is also seeking an order regarding spousal support, child support, child custody, or visitation.

If the victim is in immediate danger, the court may issue a temporary restraining order after processing the application but before holding a hearing. Regardless, the court will set a hearing, and the victim must have the abuser served with the Notice of Hearing. Service of the Notice of Hearing is usually done through the sheriff’s department of the county where the abuser lives.

The victim may bring a support person to the restraining order hearing, even if the victim also has an attorney. If evidence at the hearing shows the existence of past or present abuse of the victim by the abuser, then the court will issue a domestic violence restraining order. A domestic violence restraining order can last up to five years but lasts only three years if no termination date is stated. During the last three months of a restraining order, the victim can ask the court to extend the restraining order for another five years or permanently.

If you or a loved one has been or is a victim of abuse, consult an experienced attorney experienced in domestic violence law to help you get a domestic violence restraining order. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help you get the protection you need. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

When Does a Child Support Obligation Stop?

When Does a Child Support Obligation Stop?

It’s important that both parents have clear expectations about the amount and payment of child support, and that includes when the duty to pay stops. Termination of child support is governed by state law. For that reason, it’s important to know what California law says on the subject.

The general rule is that the duty to pay child support ends when a child turns 18, the age of majority in California. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.

Perhaps the most notable exception applies when a child is 18 but is still attending high school and living with one of his or her parents. When this happens, child support must be paid until either the child turns 19 or the child graduates, whichever happens earlier. Cal. Fam. Code § 3901.

Other exceptions to the general rule apply when a child gets married, enters into a valid domestic partnership, joins the military, or becomes legally emancipated. In addition, a child support obligation ends when the child dies.

As you might expect, a parent has the power to agree to continue to pay child support even after he or she is no longer legally required to do so.

In some cases, the duty to pay child support may continue well into or throughout adulthood. In California, parents “have an equal responsibility to maintain, to the extent of their ability, a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means.” In other words, if a child cannot be financially self-sufficient due to some physical or mental incapacitation, the parents must continue to support him or her if they are able to do so.

It’s important to know that California is not one of the states that requires the payment of child support throughout college. This is sometimes known as “college support.”

The best course of action as child support termination approaches is consultation with a knowledgeable California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger  will make sure you successfully navigate the laws that apply in this area. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Modification of Child Support in California

Modification of Child Support in California

Many parents are disheartened by the final child support order entered in their divorce, legal separation, or parentage case. Payers often feel that they have been ordered to pay too much, beyond their means; payees, on the other hand, frequently believe they have been shortchanged.

Most of the time, it is difficult to change the amount of support, either upward or downward. In fact, the simplest circumstance is the rare occasion on which a judge ordered less than the amount found by the guideline. In such a case, the amount can be changed without any legal showing at all.

The second simplest way to change the support amount is when the parents agree to change the amount and a judge is willing to sign an order approving the requested change. Of course, the parties rarely agree on an appropriate amount of support.

Aside from these two methods, it can be difficult to change the amount of child support. However, three methods are available: reconsideration, appeal, and modification.

Both a motion for reconsideration and an appeal have strict legal time frames within which they may be requested. Experienced California family lawyers are very familiar with the applicable time frames and mandatory procedures; if your final order is brand new or relatively so, hiring an experienced family lawyer is your best bet for changing the amount through reconsideration or appeal.

The third way the child support amount may be changed is through a motion for modification. For a modification to be granted, it must be based on a significant change in circumstances since the time the final order was entered. Again, a skilled family lawyer understands the legal standard that applies to modification requests and the type of evidence that may be used to support such a request.

Here are some examples of circumstances that may warrant a modification of a California final child support order:

  • Significant promotions or demotions;
  • Changes in jobs or loss of a job;
  • Lengthy prison or jail time;
  • Major changes in the parents’ time-share arrangement;
  • Major illness or disease of a parent or a child; and
  • Military activation or deployment.

The most important thing to remember is that unless and until a new support order is entered, the amount stays the same. In addition, it’s important that you ask for a modification right away. Most of the time, the amount will not be changed retroactively to a date before the modification request was filed.

If circumstances have changed since your child support order was entered and you want to pursue a change, consult a qualified family lawyer to discuss your best options. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings, including disagreements about child support. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.
FAQs Relating to California Child Support

FAQs Relating to California Child Support

California laws that apply to child support are anything but simple. If you’re facing a divorce and have children, you may have many questions about the mechanics of child support. In this blog, we’ll discuss five of the common questions our office receives about this important topic.

What Are the Most Important Factors in Setting Child Support?

Many considerations come into play in setting child support in California. However, the three most important factors are the parties’ income, the number of children, and the parents’ comparative parenting time with the children (often known as “time-share”).

All of the relevant factors are set out in law. However, the factors have been built into a computer program that performs the calculations for the court. Have you ever heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”? If so, you understand the importance of making sure the right numbers are provided to the court for input into the program.

What Is Included in Income for Setting Child Support in California?

One of the most complicated factors at issue in setting California child support is the parties’ net disposable income. Almost all types of income are included, such as traditional forms of pay like wages, tips, commissions, overtime, and bonuses, and other forms of earnings, such as interest, dividends, and rental income.

A few amounts are excluded from income, such as CalWORKs payments and supplemental security income (SSI).

In addition, the following items are deducted from gross income, such as these:

  • Income taxes, both federal and state;
  • Mandatory union dues;
  • Mandatory retirement deductions;
  • Contributions for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (known as “FICA” on your pay stub);
  • Health insurance and premium deductions for each parent and any children the parent is legally obligated to support;
  • Child and spousal support paid to a different spouse or child;
  • Certain job-related expenses under California Family Code § 4059(f); and
  • Court-allowed amounts for hardship suffered by a party.

Do California Courts Have to Follow the Child Support Guidelines?

Generally speaking, courts follow the child support guidelines. However, a few factors can change the amount of support.

For example, there are some mandatory and discretionary add-ons to child support. These include uninsured health care costs, certain child care costs, private school costs, extracurricular activities, and travel expenses.

Can a Parent Be Jailed for Failing to Pay Child Support?

Yes, a parent who fails to pay court-ordered child support can be held in contempt of court and even jailed. Criminal contempt of court is a very serious matter that places the payer’s liberty at risk. If found guilty of contempt of court for failing to abide by a court order of child support, both community service and jail time are possible consequences.

Does Interest Accrue When Child Support Is Not Paid on Time?

Interest accrues on any child support amounts that are not paid on time. In California, the applicable annual interest rate is 10 percent per year.

If you are facing a divorce proceeding, especially one that involves child support, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in difficult divorce proceedings. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

Different Types of Restraining Orders in California Family Law Cases

Different Types of Restraining Orders in California Family Law Cases

An important tool to help a victim of threatened or actual domestic violence is an order of protection from the court. This civil court order, called a restraining or protective order, commands the abuser to stop the abuse or suffer punishment by the court. The type of restraining order entered depends on the process used to get the restraining order.

The restraining order entered in emergency situations is called an emergency protective order. A situation is considered to be an emergency when a police officer responds to a domestic violence call or when someone has made a report of abuse to the police. In such cases, the police can request an emergency protective order under California Family Code § 6250. The court can enter an emergency protective order without first holding a hearing, but this type of protective order is only good for seven days.

If a victim needs a protective order for a longer period of time, or if the victim wants to apply for the restraining order without police involvement, he or she may apply to the court for a domestic violence restraining order. Abuse is considered to be domestic violence if the abuser is related to the victim as a spouse or former spouse; a person the victim is dating or has dated; a lover; the other parent of the victim’s child; anyone related to the victim by blood, marriage, or adoption; or a person who regularly lives in the victim’s home.

However, before entering a permanent domestic violence restraining order, the court must hold a hearing, and the abuser must have notice of the hearing. If, after a hearing, the court enters a domestic violence restraining order, that order may specify what the abuser can and cannot do to the victim or how near to the victim the abuser can be. Such an order may also include orders regarding child support, visitation, and custody orders if the victim and the abuser have children together; orders regarding possession of a shared residence or pet; orders for spousal support; or an order prohibiting the abuser from possessing a firearm. A domestic restraining order may be entered regardless of whether the court has previously issued an emergency protective order regarding the parties. A domestic violence restraining order can last up to five years.

If you are in immediate danger, the court may issue a temporary restraining order after processing the application but before a hearing.

If you or a family member has been a victim of domestic violence, seek help from a qualified family law attorney. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in helping victims of domestic violence get the protection they need. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Discovery and How Is It Used in Divorce Proceedings?

What Is Discovery and How Is It Used in Divorce Proceedings
In a divorce case, the end of your legal relationship includes the division of assets and debts and determination of issues on custody and support. Sometimes, only a spouse may have access to information on property you believe to be subject to division in the divorce, or you and your spouse may disagree on an issue regarding custody or support. To prepare an argument in support of your position, you can request information on relevant issues from your spouse or from a third party. This process of requesting and exchanging such evidence is called “discovery.”

“Discovery” is the legal term that describes a pre-trial procedure for collecting evidence and information in order to prepare a case for negotiation or trial. By obtaining and exchanging information in discovery, you can both build your own case and evaluate your spouse’s case.

There are two main types of discovery. Informal discovery is the collection of information by methods such as interviewing witnesses or asking your spouse for information or documentation without a court order. It often is less expensive and takes less time to complete than formal discovery.

Formal discovery is a legal process governed by the Code of Civil Procedure in which one party requests information from the other party, or even from a third party, and the responses are given under oath. Following are the most common types of formal discovery in a divorce:

  • interrogatories;
  • request for production of documents;
  • request for admissions; and
  • depositions.

Interrogatories are questions to be answered in writing under oath. The questions in interrogatories have a bearing on issues in your divorce. For example, you may send interrogatories asking your spouse to identify all items of property claimed to be community and separate property, to identify property owned by your spouse by held by another, or to state whether you and your spouse have agreements on any issues in the divorce. Interrogatories can be used to identify areas of agreement in a case as well as serve as a starting point for collecting information on the marital estate. Judicial Council Form FL-145 is a form of interrogatories designed and commonly used in family law cases.

Requests for production of documents are just that: a request to produce documents under oath. As with interrogatories, the documents requested to be produced should have a bearing on issues in the divorce, such as the identification or value of property owned by either spouse or financial account records. In some cases, such as where one spouse requests spousal support or maintenance, even a spouse’s medical records may be relevant and requested by the other spouse.

Requests for admissions are statements sent to the other spouse in order to ask him or her to admit or deny the truth of those statements. This discovery tool can be useful in establishing areas of agreement in the divorce. For example, where divorcing spouses agree on the identification and division of property but disagree on child custody and support, one spouse may send the other spouse a request for admissions on the property issues. Once those issues are admitted under oath in a written response by the other spouse, they do not need to litigate that issue at trial.

Finally, a deposition is an oral statement given under oath. The party who scheduled the deposition asks questions relevant to the issues in the divorce. The witness, called a deponent, responds, and the responses are recorded by a court reporter. The court reporter then creates a transcript of the question-and-answer session. A deposition is similar to trial testimony, in which one attorney examines a witness and the other attorney then cross-examines the witness. Depositions can be used to memorialize testimony as well as to gauge the demeanor of the witness while answering the questions.

You may use court forms and other resources to conduct discovery yourself, but the discovery and family law rules are complicated. If you are contemplating separation or divorce and you have children, you should consult with a knowledgeable California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger  will make sure you successfully navigate the discovery rules. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Help! Can I Still Get a Divorce if My Spouse Doesn’t Respond.

Help! Can I Still Get a Divorce if My Spouse Doesn't Respond?
Sometimes only one person in a marriage wants a divorce. The other spouse may threaten to put up roadblocks such as not answering the petition for divorce. Can your spouse really prevent the divorce by failing to respond? Fear not. Your spouse’s lack of participation in the proceedings will not prevent you from getting a divorce.

In California, you begin the process to end your marriage by filing in superior court a petition for divorce (form FL-100) and a summons (form FL-110), along with other documents. After you have filed these documents, you must have a copy of each served on your spouse. This is called service of process, and it is done by having someone personally deliver the documents to a spouse living in California or by mailing the documents certified mail to a spouse residing out-of-state. The person or service that delivered, or served, the documents on your spouse files proof of service in the court.

The summons informs your spouse that he or she has 30 days to respond to the petition for divorce. The 30-day time period begins to run on the day your spouse is served with the petition and summons. Your spouse can respond by agreeing to the requests in your petition or by opposing your requests. But how do you move forward with the divorce if your spouse does not respond at all?

Although your spouse has 30 days to respond to the petition for divorce, you are not automatically divorced once that time period has passed without a response. The earliest your divorce could be final is six months from the date the petition for divorce was served, but you may still move your case forward during the six-month waiting period. After the 30-day response period has run, and if you and your spouse do not have a written agreement, you may ask the court to enter a default judgment called a “true default.”

To obtain a true default judgment, you need to file the original and two copies of the following forms:

  • a Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165);
  • a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (Form FL-170);
  • a Judgment (Form FL-180); and
  • a Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190).

Additional forms may be required as well, such as the additional forms required if you are asking for custody, child support, spousal support, or partner support. Each county may require its own forms also.

Once you have filed these forms, the clerk of court will mail a copy to you and to your spouse. If your spouse does not oppose default or respond to the court in any way, the court will enter a default judgment. In the case of a true default, the court will grant the requests in your petition, but the court does not grant the divorce until at least six months have passed since you served your petition for divorce.

At a later date, your spouse may try to oppose the entry of default judgment by arguing surprise, mistake, or excusable neglect. In such a case, you may be required to appear in court for a hearing. After hearing arguments on both sides, the court will either grant default judgment or deny the same, but at least your case is proceeding.

Obtaining a “true default” defeats an opposing spouse’s attempt to stop or slow down the divorce, but it also has some downsides. In a case with a true default, you must also file a property declaration, which is a public record, and the court must divide property equally between the parties.

If your spouse is attempting to thwart your divorce by not responding to the summons, consult a qualified family law options to discuss your best options. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings and what it takes to sort out complexities when your spouse fails to respond. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

How Is Temporary Child Support Calculated?

How Is Temporary Child Support Calculated?
Both parents have a duty to support their minor children. If you and your co-parent have started living separately, you may want or need child support in order to provide for your children. You may ask the court for a temporary child support order in a pending divorce, paternity, or domestic violence case with your co-parent.

A child support order requires one parent to pay to the other parent an amount for the support of the children. To obtain a temporary child support order you must have a pending family court case, but you don’t have to wait until all issues are resolved for the court to order temporary child support. The temporary child support order is a child support order in effect until the court enters a final order resolving all current matters in the case. You may ask for a temporary child support order at the beginning of your case, such as when you file the petition for divorce or your request for a domestic violence restraining order, or you may request temporary child support at a later point while the case is pending.

Under California law, a formula is used to calculate the child support guideline. The child support guideline is the minimum amount of child support recommended by law. Parents wishing to deviate from the child support guideline must state a valid reason for doing so.

In California, the “top priority” in setting child support is the “interests of children.” In fact, under California law, a parent’s “first and principal obligation” is to support his or her children. The guiding principles that California courts must use when determining child support include not only income but also parenting time-share and responsibility, the parents’ standards of living, and the children’s financial needs.

The child support guideline is calculated under California Family Code § 4055. California Family Code § 4055 sets out a mathematical formula that considers each parent’s net disposable income and the amount of visitation with the children. Net disposable income is figured by subtracting from gross income items such as federal and state income taxes, mandatory union dues, and health insurance premiums among others. The court then applies an additional factor to the child support guideline depending on the number of children.

In addition to the child support guideline, the court may also order payment of add-ons. California Family Code § 4062 lists two types of add-ons: mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory add-ons include reasonable uninsured medical, dental, and visions expenses of the children and the childcare costs incurred in order for a parent to work or obtain work-related training or education. Discretionary add-ons include items such as expenses for a child’s private school or special needs or travel expenses for visitation with the other parent.

Online calculators are available for calculating temporary child support, but using the calculator requires an understanding of tax data, such as alternative minimum tax adjustments, and California Family Code provisions, such as whether you qualify for the low-income adjustment or factoring in costs for “hardship children.” Calculating temporary child support is complex. To best serve your needs and the interests of the children for whom you are seeking a temporary support order, contact an attorney experienced in family law.

If you are facing a divorce proceeding, especially one that involves temporary child support, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in difficult divorce proceedings. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.