Why Do I Have to Pay Child Support If We Share Custody 50/50?

Posted in Child Support on April 30, 2021

If a judge orders a 50/50 shared custody agreement, the assumption might be that neither parent will owe the other child support since they split physical custody of the child evenly. Custody, however, is not the only factor taken into account when determining child support in California. There are several situations where one parent must provide child support with a 50/50 custody agreement.

How Is Child Support Calculated in 50/50 Custody Situations?

Child custody is one of the most complex and contested matters in divorce law. Although the courts in California always give a couple the right to settle their own child custody and child support agreements, in many cases an agreement is difficult or impossible to reach. This will result in the divorce case going to court and a judge determining child custody and support instead.

As a general rule, judges agree that children are better off when they remain in contact with both parents. For this reason, joint custody agreements are common. If your schedules and the child’s needs line up to allow an even 50/50 custody split, this might be the agreement a judge decides is in the child’s best interests. Then, the judge will calculate an appropriate amount in child support, if any, according to the custody arrangement and other factors.

Child custody and visitation time are two factors that go into calculating child support, but they are not the only ones. The courts will also analyze each parent’s gross and net incomes, monthly expenses, and whether the child has special needs. Even if the parents are dividing physical custody down the middle, a judge may order the higher-earning parent to pay child support.

You may have to pay child support even with a 50/50 custody agreement if you are the higher-earning parent. This is because the purpose of a child support order is to maintain the standard of living the child would have had if the divorce had never happened. Both parents have a legal obligation to support a child financially. To avoid punishing the child, a judge may make the higher-earning parent pay the lower-earning parent to maintain the child’s standard of living.

Will the Higher-Grossing Income Always Pay Child Support?

With a 50/50 custody split, the odds of the higher-grossing income paying child support are higher. This is because the other main component of a child support calculation – custody – is the same for both parents in this scenario. With a different custody arrangement, such as a 25/75 split, the chances are higher of the parent with primary custody being the recipient of child support, even if he or she earns more money than the noncustodial parent.

Since the custodial parent has physical custody of the child more often, he or she will have greater childcare expenses, and may therefore be eligible for child support from the lower-earning spouse. The courts might also order a lower or higher amount in child support if one parent earns significantly more or less than the other spouse.

Keep in mind that both parents pay to support a child after a divorce, even if only one has to make regular payments to the other. The parent with less parenting time may be the one making the payments, but both parents pay for childcare. The law assumes that the custodial parent is already spending his or her money on the child as the parent with primary custody, such as for food, clothing, shelter and school.

Most child support payments in California last until the child turns 18 or goes away to college. There are exceptions that can extend a child support obligation, however, for children with special needs. If a child joins the military, becomes emancipated or registers into a domestic partnership, this could end a child support obligation early. For more information about child support in a 50/50 custody arrangement, consult with a Solana Beach family law attorney today.