A court may make child support orders in any proceeding involving a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or child custody. In order for a a court to determine child support amounts under the mandatory statewide guidelines, it must first determine the approximate percentage of time each parent has with the children. Therefore, child support and child custody are often times sought in the same proceedings, specifically when a divorce is first being initiated and child custody and child support is not agreed upon.
There is no legal obligation to pay child support until there is a child support court order. It is standard for a court to use support calculation software to determine the amount of an award of child support. While this sounds simple, in reality, it is typically not as straight forward as one might hope. There are various financial factors which must be input in the child support calculation software, and they are often topics of debate in court proceedings. Therefore, it is important to have the assistance of an attorney to help you understand what your child support obligation or award might look like in the various scenarios that may play out, especially if there has been a history of varied employment or periods of unemployment of either party. It is not uncommon for a party to involve the use of discovery, such as subpoenas, requests for production, etc., which you may wish to pursue, or which you may find yourself on the other end of having to respond to.
Additionally, a family law court has broad authority to modify or terminate child support "at any time as the court determines to be necessary." Husbands or wives are sometimes surprised to learn what this means: even their so-called "final judgment" may be modified with regard to child support. Until the child support obligation ends, child support orders are never final.
A court must consider and weigh the factors set forth in the Family Code when an order for spousal support is brought before it, to the extent that they are relevant to your specific case. The factors to be considered are:
- Each party's earning capacity in relation to the marital standard of living;
- Contributions to a spouse's attainment of education or training;
- The ability of a supporting spouse to pay;
- The needs of each party;
- The obligations and assets of each party;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The ability of the supported party to be employed without impairing the interest of the parties' children;
- The parties' ages and health;
- Any documented history of domestic violence between the parties;
- The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party;
- The balance of hardships to each party;
- The goal of self-support by the supported party;
- Consideration of any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse in reducing or eliminating spousal support; and
- Any other factors the court deems just and equitable.
Therefore, spousal support awards are very discretionary, and both sides typically make strong arguments as to the factors set forth above. Ultimately, whether spousal support is awarded and the amount is in the court's discretion. While there is software sometimes used to help determine what spousal support might look like (as with child support), it is common for a judge to deviate from the software figure when it comes to spousal support, sometimes significantly, due to the mandatory consideration of the factors laid forth above.
Whatever your concerns are regarding support, whether it be child support, spousal support, or both, Fyfe Law Firm is well-versed in this area and ready to fight for you. Call us at (858) 412-7714.