California parents may be interested in a recent study by two Arizona State University professors that found that public opinion of how courts should calculate child support differs greatly from the current system. The study involved the team asking prospective jurors in Arizona, as well as a group of British participants, what they would decide if they were judges in specific child support cases. The professors used this methodology rather than simply asking abstract questions because they believed it would give them a clearer picture of the public's opinion.
The results overwhelmingly favored the noncustodial parent. The respondents stated that they would take the custodial parent's income into account when calculating child support obligations much more than many courts do. They also stated that the amount should change to keep pace with a change in the custodial parent's income. An interesting result was that participants felt that if the custodial parent were to remarry, the stepparent's income should become part of the equation as well, even though in most cases a stepparent is under no legal obligation to provide support for a stepchild.
According to a Florida child support attorney, the law is set up to be as fair as possible to both parents, but normally neither party is happy with the results. The custodial parent often believes the payments are too little and the non-custodial parent often believes they are too much.
States have their own child support guidelines which are intended to take into account many different variables, and the calculations can sometimes be confusing. An attorney may be able to explain the formula to a parent who will be ordered to make payments, and can often provide representation to a client who needs a modification of the order to take into account an unexpected change in financial circumstances.