Basic child support is meant to cover the expenses associated with a child’s basic needs — including food, clothing, and shelter. However, there are also mandatory add-ons that must be taken into consideration by a judge. Mandatory child support add-ons include uninsured health care costs and childcare expenses.
Child support add-ons are costs related to raising a child that are not included in the base amount of child support. There are two types of add-ons that can be included in a child support order — mandatory add-ons and discretionary add-ons. Mandatory add-ons are those that must be included in a child support order. Discretionary add-ons may be ordered by the court, but are left to the judge’s discretion.
Mandatory add-ons are addressed under California Family Code 4062(a). Specifically, the court must make an order for childcare costs incurred in connection with a parent’s employment, or their attendance at school or a training program in order to acquire employment skills. A judge must also order reasonable uninsured health care costs for the child.
Common examples of mandatory child support add-ons can include the following costs:
Although not required by law, discretionary child support add-ons can include costs related to the educational or special needs of the child, and extracurricular activities that can enrich their life. Expenses associated with traveling for visitation may also be included as a discretionary child support add-on. But since these costs are discretionary, the court will first consider whether the expenses are valid before adding them to a child support order. A judge will also evaluate whether the parents have the funds to maintain the expenses.
California child support is calculated using a complex formula that takes the income and any available tax deductions of both parents into consideration, along with the percentage of time they spend with the child. But when it comes to mandatory child support add-ons, the costs are generally split equally between the parents. The add-ons can either be factored into the child support order itself, or each party can be ordered to pay the costs directly to the provider. The child support arrangement may also be structured such that payments are made on an as-needed basis to the receiving parent.
If it would not be reasonable to divide the add-ons equally due to a significant difference in income, the court is permitted to allocate them in proportion with each parents’ net disposable income under California Family Code 4061. When computing the paying parent’s adjusted net disposable income for the purpose of allocating child support add-on expenses, the amount of basic child support being paid is subtracted. However, the net disposable income of the parent receiving child support payments is not increased by any amount of child support they receive.
In cases where spousal support has been ordered, the gross income of the parent paying spousal support is decreased by the amount paid to the other party. The gross income of the parent receiving the spousal support is increased while the order is in effect for the purpose of dividing additional child support costs between the parties.
Sometimes, a parent might incur an out-of-pocket expense related to their child’s healthcare and make immediate payment. In such instances, the other parent is still responsible for paying their share of the costs. If a parent has accrued or already paid the costs associated with a court-ordered child support add-on, the law provides that they can request reimbursement from the other parent by providing an itemized statement of costs and proof of payment within 30 days. The other parent must either provide reimbursement or pay the costs within 30 days of being notified — or according to any payment schedule specified by the provider.
If the reimbursing parent disputes the request for payment, California law specifies they should first issue payment for the requested amount. They may then go to court if the conflict cannot be resolved. Once child support has been ordered by the court, both parents must follow the order. A parent cannot make changes to a child support order — regardless of whether it concerns basic child support or add-ons — unless the other parent consents and a judge approves, or the court orders a modification.
California child support matters can be complicated. Whether you are the parent paying or receiving child support, it’s best to have the guidance of a skilled family law attorney who can protect your rights and help ensure the best interests of your children are met. Located in Walnut Creek, California, Bednarczyk & Valerio, LLP offers compassionate counsel and diligent representation to clients in California for a wide variety of family law matters, including those concerning child support and add-on issues. Call 925-464-2494 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help with child support add-ons.