Child support in California is determined by a statewide uniform guideline intended to ensure the financial needs of children are met by both parents. But sometimes the support calculated by the guideline is inappropriate, and the court may deviate from the computed amount of child support. For high-income earners, the guideline could produce a child support order that is far above the needs of the child. In such situations, Family Code Section 4057 allows courts to deviate from the child support guideline to an amount appropriate for the child’s needs.
The definition of high-income earner varies, depending on location. It has never been defined by the Legislature, but logically it will be higher in Los Angeles than in Modesto. Further, the definition of who is a high-income parent is left to the court’s discretion.
While minor children have the right to share in the high-income parent’s lifestyle and standard of living, the support ordered must reflect the child’s needs. Therefore, the first question in high-income child support cases is how much support does a minor child need? The court must first calculate the guideline amount of child support. Then, the high-income earner parent and payor may present evidence to make the argument that the guideline exceeds the child’s needs, and that ordering guideline child support would be unjust or inappropriate. The high-income parent must also show that a lower amount of child support would be consistent with the child’s best interests.
Adjusting Child Support for a High-Income Parent
It is important to note that child support can be modified to meet the changing needs of children as they get older. For example, an infant would not need to attend private school or have private sports instructors to share in the high-income parent’s lifestyle. Alternatively, for an older minor child or teenager to share in the high-income parent’s lifestyle, their needs might include private security, a nanny, private school, tutors, special extra-curricular activities, enrichment summer camps, and first-class or even private air trial.
Determining child support in a high-income case is very fact specific and requires experienced family law attorneys to present relevant facts and evidence to argue for a deviation from guideline child support. The family law attorneys at The Reape-Rickett Law Firm can guide high-income earners through the process of challenging guideline child support. Call us today at (888) 846-6166 or visit DivorceDigest.com.