Orange County Support Mediation Lawyer
Board Certified Advocate in LA County, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, and Santa Barbara
Mediation can address a number of concerns regarding life after divorce, including how divorced parents will continue supporting their shared children. Support mediation is a critical method for working with your spouse to determine how much child and spousal support is necessary in the best interests of your child, and a board certified attorney like Kevin B. Gibbs can help you prepare for support mediation.
What Is Child Support?
Child support is a monthly payment that one parent makes to another to help cover the costs of raising a child after a divorce. Generally, the parent who cares for a child most of the time (the “custodial parent”) receives child support payments from the “non-custodial parent.” Parents typically provide child support until the child turns 18 years old, unless the child is still in high school and lives with a parent, in which case payment can continue.
The amount of support depends on California’s child support guidelines, and parents can draft their own agreement in mediation without the influence of the court, as long as they submit the plan to the court for final review.
To get started on estimating the support amount, parents will need information on both their net disposable incomes. Net disposable income is the difference between gross income and what counts as deductions for child support purposes. Gross income includes everything from salaries and commissions to unemployment, military pensions, and Social Security benefits, as well as lottery winnings and alimony received.
Once the parents have determined gross income, they can deduct state and federal income taxes, mandatory union dues, and health insurance premiums, among other things. In addition to their net disposable incomes, parents will also need to know:
- the number of children who need support;
- the custody arrangement;
- the parents’ tax liabilities;
- whether a parent supports children from another relationship;
- the child’s health insurance expenses;
- the parents’ mandatory retirement contributions and other job-related expenses; and
- any other relevant costs (e.g., healthcare, daycare, childcare).
What Is Spousal Support?
Spousal support, or alimony, is a series of payments made from a higher-earning spouse to the other. The purpose of spousal support is to facilitate the transition from a two-income household to one-income for a lower-earning spouse. California courts generally offer 3 alimony options – temporary, rehabilitative, and permanent spousal support.
Temporary support typically lasts from the date it's requested to the moment the judge finalizes the divorce. Rehabilitative support is the most common type of spousal support and is common in cases where one spouse earns more than the other or was the primary earner in the family while the other cared for the children and home during the marriage. The goal of rehabilitative support is to provide the lower-earning spouse the resources to obtain valuable job skills or education to enter the workforce and become self-supporting.
Permanent spousal support is rare and typically reserved for spouses ending a long-term marriage (10 or more years) where one spouse cannot enter the workforce due to advanced age or illness.
To determine the amount of spousal support to order the court will gather financial information from each spouse, including information about income, expenses, assets, and debts. For rehabilitative and permanent support, the court will also evaluate the following:
- each spouse’s earning capacity;
- the extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the other’s educational degree or professional license during the marriage;
- the spouse’s ability to pay spousal support, considering earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living;
- each spouse’s needs, based on the marital standard of living;
- each spouse’s debts and assets, including separate property;
- the length of the marriage;
- the supported spouse’s ability to become employed without interfering with the care of their minor children;
- each party’s age and health;
- whether there is a documented history of domestic violence against either party or the children;
- tax consequences to each party;
- the balance of hardships to each party;
- the goal that the recipient spouse will be self-supporting within a reasonable period;
- any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse; and
- any other relevant factors.
Mediation is a common negotiation option that involves a third-party moderator, or mediator, to facilitate discussion between separating spouses. Mediation can help parents negotiate a mutual agreement regarding support, as both parents maintain the most decision-making power in mediation rather than defaulting to a judge. During the mediation sessions, parents will exchange their views on what each feels is appropriate for the children.
An experienced support mediation attorney can help parents prepare for these mediation sessions by reviewing their goals and needs, as well as by assessing their financial situation. Note that the more cooperative the parents, the more successful mediation will be (and the more successful co-parenting will be). Mediation may also resolve disputes faster and cheaper than going to court.
Contact Kevin B. Gibbs for a Free Consultation
If you are involved in a child support dispute with your spouse, consult an experienced support mediation attorney for legal guidance. It is often in parents’ best interests to pursue mediation to resolve any differences so as to maintain the most control over the outcome. Kevin B. Gibbs has extensive experience to guide you through the support mediation process in Southern California and ensure you address your needs and goals for child and spousal support.