Recently, I read an article on the internet titled “How Much Is Child Support In Your State?” taken from the website “CustodyXChange.com”.
Did you know that every state in the USA has its own law and mathematical formula as to how to calculate child support in its family law courts? And that the use of the statewide child support calculator is mandatory if the parents go to court and have a judicial officer determine and order the child support amount?
In the collaborative process, the information about the parents’ earnings, cash flow, lifestyle, and the needs of the children is carefully collected, and disclosed to the parents and other professionals on the collaborative team by the financial specialist. That information helps the collaborative team to arrive at an amount of child support that meets the needs of the parents and the children rather than a mathematical formula. (The California statewide calculator can be found at Family Code Section 4055).
What are the results of being forced to utilize the child support calculator of the state in which the parents live? In the article, “How Much is Child Support In Your State?”, the hypothetical upon which the child support comparison of all 50 states is based includes two children, ages 7 and 10, with mother having 65% of the parenting time and father having 35% of the parenting time. The parents’ incomes came from data gathered from the Pew Research Center which described typical parental incomes throughout the country with Mother earning $45,000 gross per year and Father earning $55,000 gross per year.
Using this same hypothetical, researchers found a tremendous disparity in the amount of support even in neighboring states. For example, with the same amount of parenting time, and income as described in the paragraph above, in Virginia the noncustodial parent would pay $400 a month in child support while in Massachusetts the noncustodial parent would pay $1,200.00, or three times as much.
In fact, the researchers entering this same data into the unique child support formulas of each of the 50 states found that father’s payment could range anywhere from the lowest support guidelines of $402.00 per month to the highest support guidelines of $1,187.00 per month depending on the particular state’s child support guideline calculator. .
In all the family law courts of California, support guidelines are mandatorily followed when parents have their support determined by a judge. If the judge departs from the guidelines in California, the judge must clearly describe the reasons for doing so on the court record.
But in California, if the parents decide to make their own agreement as to the amount of child support to be paid, through a collaborative divorce, or another out-of-court process, the parents may do so through an uncontested stipulation and order, or uncontested judgment to complete their divorce.
One of the most surprising revelations in the article, “How Much Is Child Support In Your State?”, is that statewide calculator formulas do not “significantly correlate with a state’s cost of living”. California which is described as one of the five most expensive states to live in actually ranks 33rd in the USA in the amount of child support awarded through the California Family Code child support formula of Family Code Section 4055.
Rather than resorting to the mandatory calculator program, parents in California can calculate a child support amount that is unique and best for their family by utilizing the collaborative divorce process and by taking advantage of the knowledge gathered and suggested by the financial neutral on the collaborative divorce team. With the information gathered by the financial neutral, the parents can agree upon an amount which respects both parents’ reasonable living expenses, their standard of living, and their children’s needs instead of using a state-imposed formula.