August is Child Support Awareness Month. The attorneys at FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC offer sound bites on some often misunderstood aspects of the system.



Parents sometimes lose sight of the fact that child support is an obligation owed only by the parents of the child, to shocking results. Step-parents don’t have the duty to support a child, even though in reality they often do. Because the new spouse does not have an obligation to support the child, his or her income is not considered when determining child support, except for one counter-intuitive reason. If a new spouse earns a significant amount of income, it could put the actual parent into a higher tax bracket, meaning that the support calculations would deduct more from the actual parent’s income for tax consequences.

This was an issue in a case I handled where Mother earned less than Father and as such Father paid support. Mother remarried and her new husband had a very high income. Father thought this would decrease his support, when it actually raised his support because Mother’s net income after taxes was actually less than it had been before because she had been bumped up two tax brackets by filing jointly with her new husband.


Neil M.E. Forester Family Law AttorneyNEIL FORESTER

The amount of monthly child support ordered by a court is often not the only child support that must be paid. In two specific instances, the parents will also be subject to additional mandatory child support. The first mandatory add on is any unreimbursed medical expenses incurred for a child. This would include co-pays and any other out of pocket expenses that insurance will not cover. The second mandatory add on is any work or school related daycare for the child. So if a babysitter or after school care program must be utilized by either parent on his or her custodial time, the costs incurred for that will be shared equally. These additional forms of child support are automatic, though in many cases are not spelled out specifically in the underlying guideline order. It is always a good idea to discuss these additional forms of support with the other parent (and with the judge at any support hearing) to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


Keeley L. Nickelson, Family Law AttorneyKEELEY NICKELSON

A noncustodial parent may be shocked to get a child support bill with money owing not to the custodial parent, but to the state. If a custodial parent goes on public assistance, the state will look to the noncustodial parent for reimbursement. Sometimes, a parent could be on public assistance for years, leaving the noncustodial parent with arrears in the thousands (or tens of thousands!). It goes to show how seriously states take a parent’s responsibility to support their child. Parents should take that obligation seriously as well.


MICHELLE STOWELLmichelle-stowell

Many of my clients are under the false impression that the higher their monthly expenses, the less they will pay in child support. Child support is based on your net income – i.e. income available after taxes have been paid – not on monthly expenses. This means that the more tax deductions you have, the more you will pay in child support (or, conversely, the less you will receive in child support).  My clients are often surprised to learn that after buying a new house with a large monthly payment, their child support goes up. This is because along with that new house comes the tax deductions for property taxes and interest payments. The program that calculates child support looks at these additional tax deductions as you receiving additional income. Similarly, if you contribute to a 401(k) – which is in pretax dollars – your support payment will also increase because the program views these contributions as tax free money (even though it really isn’t). The bottom line is this – the more tax deductions you have, the more you will pay (or the less you will receive) in child support.




FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC  is a Northern California law firm focused exclusively on specialized counsel for complex divorce and family law issues. The firm’s founders are recognized by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization as Certified Family Law Specialists and regularly represent business owners, professionals, and other high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce, premarital agreements, guardianships, and related actions. The legal team can be reached at or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.
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