Child Custody and Child Support can be one of the biggest areas of contention in a divorce.
They can also be a source for ongoing battles after the divorce is over if the divorce case is not carefully managed by both parents.
The public policy of the state of California is that a child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. We do not have specific requirements about child custody. Contact could be once a week, once a month, or every other day. The challenge lies in getting a couple to agree on what the child custody and parenting plan should look like.
Many people get fixated on having 50/50 custody. There is also a fixation on mom getting most of the parenting time and dad getting less parenting time if they have a young child, an infant or a child under two. Common misconceptions are that by going to court, the judge will simply order 50/50 custody or order more parenting time to the mom than the dad. Our California Family Code says the judges need to focus on what is in the child’s best interest. The best interest of the child is to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which could be once a week or every other day. The judge has a lot of discretion in these decisions. When the judge does not rule the way one parent thought the custody decision should go, it can then lead to more conflict. Conflict between parents is not good for children.
In the Mediation and the Collaborative Divorce processes, we help you and the other parent to understand what to expect based on the Family Code. In California, we believe children need both parents and a divorcing couple with an infant or toddler does not mean a dad should not have parenting and bonding time with that child. Our Mediation and Collaborative Divorce processes allow the couple to tailor a custody and parenting plan to their family situation. Are there children under age two? Does the couple have a 10-year-old? Or is there a stubborn 16-year-old teenager who thinks they should be in charge of the parenting schedule?
The Mediation and the Collaborative Divorce processes give you the chance to develop a plan that works for your child and your unique situation.
For example, not everybody works 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday. Mediation and Collaborative Divorce professionals are better positioned than the court system to help you deal with the special challenges you face as a divorcing couple with children. Rather than leaving these important decisions to a judge’s discretion, you and the other parent should determine the best plan for your family.
Child Support in California has a statutory formula for determining how much should be paid each month. The formula requires that we use various data, including gross income, parenting time share, payment of property taxes, required union due payments, contributions to 401K account, health insurance costs, and to calculate the statutory “guideline” amount of child support. The Family Code says this “guideline” amount of child support is presumptively correct and, unless you are multi-millionaires in the top 1% of income, the judge will order child support payment at the “guideline” amount as calculated by the formula.
Since we know the calculation is presumptively correct, the battle between parents becomes what input data the judge will use, and it is important to remember that the California Family Code defines income differently than the IRS so the income you reported on your tax return may not be the income the judge uses in the calculation, and different input data affects the calculation of the “guideline” amount differently.
In Mediation and Collaborative Divorce, we help couples understand how inputting different data changes the guideline number.
We can run different scenarios based upon different input data of income and parenting time share to show the parents how the statutory formula will produce varying amounts of “guideline” child support. In Mediation and Collaborative Divorce, parents do not have to agree to the “guideline” amount – the parents can agree to a higher or lower amount if they decide that will work best for their situation. Parents can be as flexible about how you to determine an equitable child support agreement. In Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, we focus on the family’s entire financial picture with a goal is to balance the income and the expenses to make sure both parents can meet their basic needs and provide a safe and healthy environment for their child.