Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody?

What Is 50/50 Custody?

There are two types of custody in California: legal custody and physical custody. The parent with legal custody is allowed to make important choices in the child’s life, such as which religion he or she will practice and what school he or she will attend, as well as any healthcare decisions. The parent with physical custody is the parent that the child mainly resides with. When parents have 50/50 custody, both parents share the right to make major decisions about the child’s life and the child spends a fair amount of time with each parent.

Joint Custody and Child Support

If you are a parent who is getting an Orange County divorce and this is your first time, soon you will be learning about your rights and responsibilities in regards to child support. You learn that in California, both parents are expected to financially support their children until they turn 18, or graduate high school, whichever occurs later.

But what if both parents decide on a joint custody arrangement, one that is close to 50/50 shared custody? In that situation, you may be wondering, "Do you have to pay child support if you have joint custody?" It is a common misconception among divorcing couples that joint custody would mean zero child support obligation, but that is not how it works.

Who Pays Child Support in Joint Custody?

Are you the higher earning parent? If you intend to share the kids equally (joint custody) but you earn more than your spouse, YOU still may be ordered to pay some child support, or you may be ordered to share some costs, such as uninsured medical expenses or childcare expenses so your spouse can work.

When parents share 50/50 custody, child support payments are approximately 15% of the difference of the parents' earnings. The exact number to be paid will depend also on the number of children shared, the amount of time each parent has with the children, and the parents' monthly incomes. As an example, if both parents earn $2, 000 each month, there is no difference, and each parent is not required to pay child support.

It is important for you to know that child custody and support are connected. This is because the amount of time your son or daughter spends with each parent will affect child support. If you’re the higher earning spouse, essentially the more time your child spends with you, the less child support you pay.

What if My Spouse Won’t Let Me See My Kids?

If your former spouse refuses to let you see your kids during your court-ordered parenting time, this does not mean you can stop paying child support. And, if you don’t pay your former spouse the child support you owe, he or she cannot stop you from seeing your children. If your former spouse is keeping your children from you for any reason, contact our firm immediately so we can help enforce the child custody order.

For further information about child custody and support in Orange County, contact Burch Shepard Family Law Group to request a consultation.