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Child Support

California law requires both parents to support their child(ren). Child support is payable until a child reaches the age of 19, reaches the age of 18 and is no longer a full-time high school student, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated. The amount of child support a Santa Monica parent pays is based upon a complex mathematical formula. Usually a computer program is used to calculate guideline child support. Some of the factors the courts consider are:

  • Father’s gross monthly income
  • Mother’s gross monthly income
  • Number of children
  • Location of the children if one parent is the primary caretaker
  • Amount of time the parent with visitation rights actually spends with the children
  • Interest and dividend income, or self-employment income
  • Other incomes including undeclared gifts or cash
  • Child care
  • Medical insurance premiums for the children
  • Travel costs for visitation

While child support is primarily driven by a formula, it can still be a contentious issue in divorce, particularly when there are or questions about true income. The role of an attorney is to make sure that support is fair and based on accurate data. The Santa Monica child support attorneys at Trabolsi & Levy, LLP strive to make sure that the child support calculation reflects the complete picture of the parties’ financial situations.

For example, we may need to determine the actual income of a spouse who is self-employed or paid in cash. Your Santa Monica child support attorney may work with a forensic accountant to help calculate the accurate income or uncover a source of income not reported to the court. We may need to calculate an average income if a spouse’s income fluctuates seasonally or year to year. In cases where one parent may receive a bonus or have occasional overtime, they can be ordered by the court to pay a percentage to the other parent if and when the bonus or overtime pay is received.

If a parent is not working, but is capable of working to earn money, it may be necessary to impute income to that parent based upon their ability to earn. The parent who claims that the other parent has the ability to earn or is “under-earning” must show the court what the other parent could be earning. The use of vocational evaluation experts can be helpful in this area.

Once we have an accurate gauge of income and the other statutory factors of the child support calculation formula, our Santa Monica child support attorneys can give clients an honest assessment about the child support payment they can expect to pay or receive.

Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, is a big question mark in divorce. Does it apply? How much and for how long? California has both temporary and post-judgment spousal support. Temporary spousal support for a Santa Monica resident is usually ordered by the court or agreed upon by the parties shortly after the date of separation. When possible, parties are entitled to maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed during their marriage. Temporary spousal support is intended to maintain the financial status quo during the period of time between the initial separation of the parties and the final division of property and permit the parties take the time to reorganize their financial lives. If one spouse has not been working, he or she may need time to either get training or get a job. Similar to child support, temporary spousal support in Santa Monica is based on a statutory formula, and a computer program is often used to calculate temporary spousal support.

Permanent spousal support does not follow a detailed formula. The final amount is based on various factors such as the ability of the spouse to pay spousal support, the age and health of the parties, the earning capacity of each party if not gainfully employed and any special needs that have been identified. If a marriage is less than 10 years old, it may be treated as a marriage of short duration. A spouse who has been married for less than 10 years may only receive spousal support for a period of half the length of the marriage, unless he or she is disabled or has other reasons why support should be for a longer period. If a spouse has been married for longer than 10 years, they may have a right to life-time support. However, the supported spouse is still expected to make efforts to earn income or obtain training so he or she can get a job. If one spouse has earnings which are much higher than the supported spouse can earn even after getting a paying position, some spousal support may still be paid. Again, this is a matter for negotiation.

As with child support, there are often disputes regarding an individual’s actual income or earning potential. Our Santa Monica spousal support specialists are skilled at uncovering a party’s true income when the paying spouse is self-employed, paid in cash or has a fluctuating income, or when the recipient spouse is unemployed or under-employed. When a spouse is self-employed or owns a company, it may be necessary to retain the services of a forensic accountant to assist in determining their actual earnings. The use of a vocational evaluation expert can also be helpful when determining an appropriate amount of income to impute to a party.

The income tax consequences of spousal support for a Santa Monica resident affect the net amount received by the supported spouse. Spousal support is usually taxable as income to the recipient, and is deductible to the payer. Nontaxable spousal support can occur in negotiated settlements.

The Santa Monica child support attorneys at Trabolsi & Levy, LLP know the law and have expert insight based on their experience. We determine the best strategy to get the best results for our clients, whether that involves going to court or sitting down to negotiate and settle the issue.