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Father lost job, wants to modify child support. Does his new wife's income get considered as part of his household?

Your Question:
I live in CA. We have joint custody of our teen daughter. I am re-married. My daughter has changed school and lives with us. I have lost my job, but I have been paying child support for the past year. I want to modify the CS payment. Does my wife's income come into picture for this modification?

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My Answer:

In California, three things have an impact on child support: timeshare split between homes, mom's income, and dad's income. Of these, you mentioned two things that will have an impact on a new determination of child support.

First, it sounds like your daughter is spending much more time with you than when child support was originally ordered.

Second, you are unemployed.

On the first part, you're going to have to introduce solid evidence that "de facto" (i.e., actual) custodial time is different than court orders. For the past 6 months, document the times that the daughter was in your home versus her mom's home. If you need to sign daughter in to school, get those school records. Get affadavits from your neighbors that testify they see daughter on X days of the week, every week. If you took her to health appointments, get those records. If you can't show what the actual schedule has been lately (i.e., at least many months), and if the mom disagrees with what you tell the court as to the custodial arrangement, you'll have a tough time convincing the court that the daughter is in your home as much as she is.

With regard to your income (remember, that's one of the three things needed to determine child support), your wife's income will never be considered at all. However, it is likely that the court is going to impute a certain income to you, if you're not working. That imputed income may be what you've historically earned, unless you can show the court good reason why you can no longer earn that.

In the state of California, parents are expected to support their kids to their capacity, and the court has discretion to decide what that earning capacity is with a parent who doesn't work.

In my own case, my daughter's mother refused to work for years after child support was initially determined. I finally filed a motion to modify child support, asking the court to impute her income. Via evidence, I showed her education, her experience, her admitted intent to avoid work, and other relevant things. In modifying child support, the court imputed her income at $45,000.

So, in your attempt to modify, you need to demonstrate what the new schedule is, and what a fair income imputation is for yourself. If you lay it all out reasonably and based upon evidence, you may find a judge who agrees with you.

At the very least, you're probably expected (by the court) to earn minimum wage full-time.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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