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When Child Support Orders Exceed the Needs of the Child

Child Support in California is not based on the needs of the child.

Child support orders in California are based on a formulaic guideline–not an analysis of the needs of the child. This child support guideline is statutory and mandatory giving family law judges very little discretion when making orders for child support. While there are some exceptions to the rule, generally child support orders are made based on the result of the formula after plugging in factors such as child sharing percentage and the gross incomes of each parent. This often leads to child support orders that provide to the receiving parent far more child support than is needed to provide for the child’s living expenses given the custodial parent’s standard of living at the time the order is made.

a black child with a red shirt wearing a dollar sign pair of glasses while he's smiling

The example of the professional athlete.

A well-known example is the case of the millionaire professional athlete having a child with a woman of lesser means. At least in California, the millionaire athlete’s child support obligation to the mother could very well be in the tens of thousands of dollars per month providing the mother with a six figure income just like that–all non-taxable. Of course, this amount of child support is far more than is required to provide for the needs of the child. However, the policy of the law in California regarding child support is that the child should share in the wealthy parent’s standard of living. The natural and necessary result of this policy is that the custodial parent then also gets the benefit of enjoying that higher standard of living.

The Court’s generally don’t monitor or dictate how child support is spent.

What is more interesting is that custodial parents receiving child support are not held accountable for the manner by which they spend the child support that they receive. “A common complaint that I hear from client’s paying on high child support orders is that the other parent isn’t spending the money on the children”, says John Griffith. Granted if the child’s needs are not being met, the paying parent pay seek judicial intervention, but family law judges rarely scrutinize the spending habits of the custodial parent receiving child support.

There are always exceptions to the rule.

If you are paying child support and you believe that the amount may be too high based on the needs of your child and/or the way the money that you pay is being used, you are not without options. There are many not commonly used child support cases and statutes that may provide an avenue for relief. An experienced child support lawyer will be able to give you case-specific advise on your options. If you find yourself in need of an experienced divorce or child support attorney call the offices of Griffith, Young & Lass for a free 30-minute consultation. 858-345-1720.