The Child Support Calculator and Special Circumstances
Online child support calculators can be a useful tool to provide a ballpark figure of what you can expect. But as all situations are unique in their own way, standardized calculators don’t always account for special circumstances. This means they are not accurate in every case.
What are Special Circumstances?
A special circumstance is essentially any exception to the standard factors considered by the child support calculator. Some common special circumstances are:
- Costs associated with caring for special-needs children
- Different time-sharing arrangements for different children
- A significantly higher or lower percentage of one parent’s income is used for housing compared to the other parent
The court has considerable discretion in determining what financial arrangement will be most beneficial to the children. While the Family Law Code contains a list of possible special circumstances, it doesn’t account for everything. The court looks at the entire situation rather than simply pulling from a standardized list.
If the Court Doesn’t Mirror the Child Support Calculator
The child support calculator presumes the appropriate amount is based on the parents’ income. It may also take into consideration the parents’ valuable assets such as property or potential income. One parent may need to assume higher costs in one area to offset the other parent’s disparately high expenses in another if it is in the children’s best interest.
An experienced attorney can help ensure that the financial arrangement proposed to the court is equitable. Sometimes it takes some creative thinking to get there, and what the court ultimately decides is equitable may seem unfair to one or both of the parents, but the decisions are made for maximum benefit to the children and often require compromise by the parents.
Reasons for Reduced Child Support
There are a lot of possible reasons to reduce child support temporarily or permanently. These reasons are not always considered by the child support calculator. Perhaps a parent needs a temporary reprieve from paying child support to complete school or find a job. The court may also need to factor in the cost of travel for visitation if the parents live far from each other.
The child support calculator also considers the high cost of living in California, so it may create a special circumstance if the custodial parent moves to a different state. A lower cost of living means less child support is needed to provide the children with the same quality of life. This may warrant a reduction in child support.
In general, the child support calculator is pretty accurate and does take into account a wide variety of circumstances. However, there is still a lot it cannot capture, and each situation needs to be evaluated for any special circumstances that may affect the amount of child support.
If you believe you have special circumstances that should be considered, it is important to discuss this with an experienced attorney who can evaluate your unique situation. An attorney can look all of the factors and put together a thorough recommendation to present to the judge.
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