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Agreeing to a lower amount of California child support

For your annoyance, er, amusement today, I present another blog post on California child support. Today, I’m specifically going to talk about when it’s possible under California law for the parents of a minor child to agree to an amount that’s different than what the family court computes.

To begin, it’s helpful to understand what California child support consists of. I have a video on my Youtube channel where I go over the various components that go into the overall child support figure that a parent either pays or receives. Most laypeople just know the overall figure and don’t actually know what goes into computing it.

This amount, of course, is computed in the comfort and peace of a courtroom. What kind of child support actually works in the real world, though, can easily be very different. If this is your situation, do you and the other parent have the ability to adjust your child support? Or do you have to live with some impractical figure that was computed by someone who may not actually know your life?

The answer is yes, you and the other parent do have the ability to inject some realism into the child support amount that applies in your case. The governing law for that in California is Section 4065 of the Family Code. Section 4065 says  that the parties to a case can agree to go below the guideline amount computed with the formula in Section 4055 if the two of them declare the following to be true:

  • They are fully informed of their rights concerning child support
  • The order is being agreed to without coercion or distress
  • The agreement is in the best interests of the children involved
  • The needs of the children will be adequately met by the stipulated amount
  • The right to support has not been assigned to the county pursuant to Section 11477 of the Welfare and Institutions Code and no public assistance application is pending.

There’s a sixth criteria that also needs to get satisfied, of course, and that’s basically that such an agreement to go below guideline amount cannot be prohibited by federal law. If all of this is satisfied, though, then what the California Family court can do is set the guideline portion of the child support figure below what Dissomaster or other similar software says. Remember, the guideline portion of the child support amount is computed in isolation — all that matters is each parent’s gross monthly income, some tax information, and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. If you have a California child support case, you’re probably well aware that the guideline formula in Section 4055¬†does not account for the payor-parent’s monthly expenses.

Here’s an example of why a Section 4065 agreement between the parents might be useful. Suppose, that the dad is the parent who pays child support and that dad also lives really far away from the child. Dad lives so far away hat he can’t drive to see his child, but instead has to fly. Due to the cost, dad can only afford to see his child three times per year. Mom, however, realizes that it’s more beneficial in the long-run if her child can see dad more often. Mom can agree to reduce the child support dad pays per month in order to allow dad to fly in four or five times per year instead of just the three times if the guideline formula was followed.

In this example, the guideline formula is actually not the best possible arrangement for the minor child. The parents saw an alternative arrangement that worked much better for their situation. Section 4065 allowed them to go with this alternative arrangement and their child’s life was better for it. Obviously, this is just one of many possible examples where a Section 4065 arrangement was beneficial. If you have a situation where you think a Section 4065 arrangement would also be beneficial, I encourage you to find a lawyer in your area with whom you can discuss your case.

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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.

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