Child Support Rules in Shared Custody

Many parents are surprised to know that child support could be ordered even under shared custody. Shared legal custody implies that parents are joint decision makers for the child, and this does not have any impact on the amount of child support decided by the court. Only in the case of joint physical custody, i.e. the child would live with either parent, does the issue of child support come up.

Although child custody and child support are not the same things, they usually go hand-in-hand in all divorce discussions. In reality, in the majority of joint custody cases, one or both parents are ordered by the law to pay for child support. If you’re discussing the possibility of joint custody with your partner, avoid eliminating issues related to child support.

Understanding Child Support

For those who are not sure about what child support means, it is simply a periodic payment offered by a co-parent(s) on a regular basis and helps take care of the financial needs of the child. The court could enforce child support in cases of divorce, marriage dissolution, annulment or separation. The amount of child support varies from case to case and is sometimes decided on the basis of the custody arrangement between the co-parents.

In most states in the U.S., including California, a key factor affecting child support decision is the time spent by each parent with the child. When both co-parents spend almost equal or equal time with the child, it is referred to as ‘shared physical custody’. However, this doesn’t automatically imply that parents will be exempted from paying child custody if they see the child equally. The specific shared physical custody arrangement would have an impact on the child support amount.

Calculation on the Basis of Income Share

The income share method is the most commonly used formula to determine child support. Under this formula, the amount of child support is calculated as a percentage and takes into consideration the income of either parent.

For instance, if the mother is earning $50,000 annually and the father is earning $100,000 annually, then their total income amounts to $150,000 per annum. The percentage of shared income to be paid by the mother is 33% and about 67% needs to be contributed by the father. If the state uses the income share method to determine child support, then the mother would need to pay 33% while the father would pay 67% of the total expenses.

When a state is following the income share method to calculate child support, the overnights spent by the child with either parent helps to determine the support amount. The greater the number of overnights spent by a parent, the lesser his/her support obligation. This is because the expenses for shelter, food, clothing and other utilities tend to increase with greater time spent at a parent’s home. Also, these expenses are paid directly by the parent during the child’s stay with him/her.

There are some other factors which also help in determining the child support amount. These include:

  • Tax considerations
  • Child care and education needs
  • The number of children staying in the house and their ages
  • The expenditure involved in the maintenance of each parent’s home
  • Special needs of the child (if any)

The state of California offers a variety of different joint custody options. The most commonly adopted model of shared custody allows both parents to have legal and shared physical custody of their child. This implies that either parent participates in the daily life of the child and takes important decisions related to education, religion and health.


Maya Shulman, Esq.

Shulman Family Law Group