Do Parents With Joint Custody Need to Pay Child Support?

While getting married is a rather simple process requiring a brief ceremony and signed marriage certificate, getting a divorce requires the state to get involved with the family’s financial affairs and make sure parties are being treated fairly across the board. This is all the more true when children are involved. The two major issues regarding children to be determined in a California divorce are 1) custody, and 2) child support. One common question parents entering into the divorce process ask is about the relation between those two issues, and specifically whether parents with joint custody need to pay child support.

Defining Custody in California

First off, it is important to understand In California that there is both legal custody and physical custody, and these can be shared jointly between parents or held solely by one parent (or a mix of both, e.g. one parent has sole physical custody while both parents share joint legal custody).

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions on the child’s behalf, such as those related to the child’s health or education. Physical custody, on the other hand, is the right and responsibility to actually physically take care of the child. If one parent has sole physical custody, then he or she always has the child and has the responsibility of providing food and shelter for the child. If the parents have joint custody, then the parents will share these rights and responsibilities, for example with one parent having the child on weekends, and generally the parents will share in the efforts to provide for their children.

Child Support May Still Be Ordered Where There is Joint Custody

Because both parents are contributing to their children’s welfare in a joint physical custody situation, it is a natural question to ask whether one parent would still need to pay child support. After all, child support can be a high financial burden and last for many years.

The short answer is that, yes, child support may still be ordered in a joint custody scenario, and will in fact often be the case, especially where there are disparities in the parents’ respective incomes and the amount of time they spend caring for the child.

When a California court determines what, if any, child support should be paid, it works off of a statewide formula which incorporates a number of factors. These factors include:

  • The income or income potential of the parents (meaning how much could each parent make)
  • The number of children the parents have together
  • Whether the parents have sole or joint custody
  • How much time each parent spends taking care of the child
  • The tax filing statuses of the parents
  • Any support received from other relationships]
  • Health insurance costs
  • Union dues / retirement contributions
  • Shared costs for raising the children (e.g. education)
  • Any other relevant factors

Thus, the fact that there is joint custody between the parents, and the specific amount of time that each parent spends taking care of the child will affect the amount of child support paid. So, a father who has joint custody of a child five days a week would pay less child support than if the joint custody of a child for two days a week. And he would pay the most if only the mother had sole custody.

Work with a Trusted Family Law Attorney on Child Support Matters

Because child support often involves large payments which must be paid monthly for many years, it is important for all parties involved to work towards a settlement agreement or court order that honors their needs. An experienced, compassionate family lawyer can help you clearly make your arguments to a court and navigate the family law system to get you the best possible results for you and your children. For help with any family law matters, please contact the Pasadena family law attorneys at Kearney Baker.