How to Prepare for a Child Support Hearing in California

One of the most stressful parts of any disagreement between parents, whether they are divorcing or were never married in the first place, is sorting out a parenting plan and custody schedule. When you add child support to that, it can get even worse.

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A child support hearing is not something either parent should take lightly. An improper decision can financially cripple either the payer or the payee. And, a parent that feels financially taken advantage of may take their frustration out on their children, harming their relationship.

Some Tips From Practicing Family Law Attorneys

We asked several practicing family law attorneys in California what they feel is important for a parent to do while preparing for a child support hearing. Here is what they said.

Show Your Full Income

First impressions go a long way and judges are no different. The family courts will use the California child support formula to determine which parent will pay support and to set a baseline figure.

A big part of that formula is both parents income. But, it’s not only your W-2 income.

Darlene S. Wanger of Kaplan | Wanger LLP explains, “When parents come to Court on their hearing date, they should have with them copies of their last two-years of tax returns, their last two months of paystubs, any documentation showing any income from any other sources, such as bank interest income, or even cash payments, and any other documents or information with respect to deductions, such as property tax or mortgage interest deductions.  Parents should also bring documents showing how much they pay for childcare (as that can also be included in the child support calculation) and any other information relevant to health insurance that a parent might pay for a child.”

In a way, it might be helpful to think of the financial aspect of your child support hearing like it’s a tax audit.

Don’t Fudge Your Math

Judges know that every person leads a different life. From your job, to your health, you aren’t going to make the same and have the same expenses as everyone else. But, when you quote your expenses to the family court, you better make sure you can back up your claim.

Raymond Hekmat of Hekmat Law & Mediation, P.C. warns, “The Court may question some of your expenses if it believes they are not reasonable, or if you are putting your needs in front of your child. Make sure your expenses are as accurate as possible, and represent your child’s needs as well. “

In other words, when you’re working out your financials, skip the voodoo math and make sure you can prove every expense you claim.

Understand the Implications of your Time Split

There are two major factors that go into the child support calculation. One is the income after taxes and deductions of both parents. The other major factor is how much time the child or children spend with each parent.

Shane Nielson of the Family Law Group, LLP explains just how important that time split is in California –

“This is the biggest single factor in the calculations, and is often a reason some parties fight about visitation. You enter the visitation percentage in the calculator to determine the guideline. The higher the percentage is for the paying parent, the lower amount he or she will pay. The reason being they need more of their income to support the child while the child is with that parent”

You can see just how much of an impact that visitation time makes by spending a few minutes with our California child support calculator.

You’re Not Going in Front of Judge Judy

What happens in your child support hearing can have very big and very real implications for the future of your co-parenting and child custody situation. That means it isn’t the time or the place to take the low road.

Anthony D. Storm of Storm Family Law advises, “Judges like solutions, not problems, so try and fashion your request to modify support in a manner that makes the court’s job easier.”

You should have your t’s crossed and i’s dotted before stepping foot in front of the judge.

In Summary

Whether you are seeking child support or are being asked to pay child support, the formal hearing is extremely important. From the four family law lawyers above that kindly supplied advice, one main point should be very clear.

Go to your hearing very well prepared.

You’ll want to have all of your finances in spotless and error free order. You’ll want to present the judge with a plan and not a problem. And, most of all, you’ll want to show respect to everyone involved.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Schedule and Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.

Make Your Plan