There are several types of joint custody in California. In the most common joint-custody arrangement, both parents share physical custody and legal custody of the child. This means that both parents are involved in the child’s day-to-day life, and both parents make important decisions regarding education, health care, and religion. The child may live with one or both parents.

For many families, sharing custody is the best decision for both the parents and the children. However, parents may also wonder how joint custody will affect their ability to support their children.

Can a parent still receive California child support when there is joint custody?

Yes. The State of California believes that both parents have a duty to provide financial support to a child.

When one parent has sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent is usually ordered to pay child support. When both parents have physical custody, child support is based on other factors, such as the time spent with each parent and each parent’s income. In some cases, the parent who has the children the majority of the time receives child support from the other parent. In other cases, the parent with the higher income is ordered to pay child support to the parent with the lower income. 

Some parents are able to work out a support arrangement without involving the courts. However, it is often better for both parties to have a legal agreement in writing. California uses both income and parenting time when calculating child support in cases where parents share custody.  Unless you let the court know the percentage of time that the child spends with each parent, a 50-50 split will be assumed. Support is determined initially using a child support calculator, but adjustments can be made for education costs, child care needs, and a child’s special needs. Let your San Francisco divorce attorney know if there are any special factors that should be taken into consideration when calculating support for your children.

Child Custody Considered In Child Support Calculation

Many people believe that child support is not granted when both parents share physical custody of a child. However, while child custody is considered in a child support calculation, it is not unusual for one or both parents to be ordered to pay child support even when they share joint custody of the child.

Child support refers to periodic payments made by a parent for the financial support and care of a child. When one co-parent has sole custody of their child, the non-custodial co-parent is usually ordered to pay child support to the custodial co-parent. In joint custody, a child is considered to have two custodial parents. In most cases, the parent with the higher income pays support to the parent with the lower income. But, there are exceptions.

Other factors that affect the amount of child support paid include:

  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child
  • Tax factors
  • The number and age of children living in the home
  • Education and child care needs
  • The child’s special needs
  • The expenses involved in maintaining each home

California Child Custody, Tax Deductions, and Your Rights

U.S. tax law offers certain tax breaks to taxpayers with children. These include a higher standard deduction, an exemption for each child, a child tax credit, and a deduction for child care and educational expenses. When you were married, you and your husband shared these deductions. Once you are divorced, the deductions can no longer be shared. Although you and your ex share your child’s expenses, IRS rules allow only one parent to claim the child on their taxes. In most cases, the custodial parent gets the deduction. There are all kinds of California child custody agreements. You may have sole physical custody, or you may share physical custody with your ex. You may have sole or joint legal custody. The IRS considers the parent with whom the child spends the most nights to be the custodial parent.

What if your California child custody order splits time equally between the parents?

In this case, the parent with the highest adjusted gross income gets to claim the child.

If you are the custodial parent, you can choose to give your ex-spouse the right to claim your child or children as a dependent. In fact, when there is more than one child, divorced parents may opt to split the deductions so that everyone benefits. To do this, you must fill out IRS Form 8832. You can specify whether you are giving up the deduction for one year or multiple years. Your ex-spouse must then attach the form to his income tax return.

Some California divorce agreements require that the custodial parent give up the right to a tax exemption through Form 8832. 

Every situation is different. If you have questions about your own California child support case, please contact the Marin County divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan. Our women-only divorce attorneys fight hard to make sure mothers get the financial support they need. To schedule an appointment, call us at 415-341-1144.