Am I over-paying or under-paying for child support and/or spousal support? Am I collecting less than what I am entitled to, or more? Have I made a mistake? Parties paying support usually feel they are paying too much, and parties collecting support usually feel it is not enough! Sometimes people are misinformed about whether they can collect support at all.
Whether collecting support or paying support, many parties doing their own divorce resolve Child Support and/or Spousal Support issues without sufficient knowledge and understanding of what their rights and obligations might be. This can be a big problem with Spousal Support, where, in California at least, it may be difficult or impossible to change an adverse Spousal Support order. Child Support, on the other hand, can usually be modified in California, no matter how bad the prior Child Support order was, so having a bad Child Support order may not be as detrimental as a bad Spousal Support order. However, to avoid bad support orders, it may be a good idea to consult a knowledgeable Family Law attorney on the issue of child support and/or spousal support, to avoid entering an agreement based on misinformation.
Over the years, I have talked with many clients who came to me with a great variety of different misconceptions about support. Well-meaning friends, family, and co-workers are often the source of misinformation about support. For example, a co-worker making the same income may be paying $X amount for child support, but expecting to pay the same amount fails to realize that time-share (% of time the child spends with one parent v. the other) and the other parent’s income are probably different and will significantly alter the child support amount. Also, a friend’s inability to collect spousal support may not mean that you will not be able to collect spousal support. Additionally, length of time being married can play a role in regards to spousal support, along with length of separation prior to applying for a spousal support order.
There are free support calculators available on-line that can give you some idea of what your rights and obligations may be regarding support. For example, the California Department of Child Support Services provides a free support calculator at http://www.childsup.ca.gov/resources/calculatechildsupport.aspx
On-line support calculators are only as accurate as the information entered. Different circumstances create different outcomes with regards to support. Thus, it is still a good idea to consult a knowledgeable family law attorney to discuss and determine the hidden elements and considerations applicable in your particular circumstances.
The Law Office of Andrew J. McCall represents Family Law litigants in Contra Costa & Solano Counties, so, if you know someone who has been trying to do his/her own divorce and is having problems, have him/her contact us to discuss representation or consultation or just help with forms.