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DIY Child Support Arrangements

Shelly Jean John, Attorney at Law Feb. 23, 2021

California employs a process for agreeable couples to handle their own divorces, including child support arrangements, without hiring a family law attorney. Although the process is structured for DIYers, it isn’t always easy to navigate.

There is an affordable and expeditious middle ground between doing everything on your own and having an attorney do everything for you. You can seek legal counsel from an attorney willing to do only the work necessary to help you with the most important details of divorce and child custody.

At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I provide legal advice to family law clients in Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County, California. For more than 20 years, I have consulted with clients regarding divorce and child custody as much or as little as they require.

DIY Divorce Options

California couples who want to handle their own divorces must reach an agreement that they can present to the court for approval. There are three ways to pursue an agreement on your own:

  1. Mediation is an informal process in which couples use a neutral third party to help them negotiate contested issues and reach an agreement.

  2. Uncontested divorce does not require a couple to go through the formal discovery process and appear in court. Instead, they reach an agreement regarding all pertinent issues, including division of assets, child custody and support, and spousal support. They then ask the court to approve the agreement and legally dissolve the marriage.

  3. Collaborative divorce uses a team of professionals, including attorneys, divorce coaches, and financial advisors to help a couple negotiate an agreement on all divorce issues. The approach is designed to be mutually respectful rather than confrontational.

The Process for DIY Child Support

California has a formula for calculating child support. Multiple factors are part of the calculation, including the incomes of both parents, number of children, amount of time spent with each parent, health insurance costs, childcare costs, and more. Couples attempting to create their own child support agreement must use the formula to calculate the amount of support one or both parents should pay.

The couple may agree to payments higher or lower than the calculated sum, called “non-guideline support,” if they:

  • Know their child support rights

  • Know the guideline child support amount

  • Are not pressured or forced to agree to this child support amount

  • Are not receiving public assistance

  • Have not applied for public assistance

  • Agree to an amount of support that will meet the needs of the children

  • Think that the child support amount is in the best interest of the children

  • Have a judge approve the amount of the child support payments

Child Support Agreements

Drawing up a child support agreement requires couples to complete several detailed forms that provide the court with the information required to enter an order for child custody and support.

Information you will need to provide includes who gets legal and physical custody of children and whether either is joint or shared. You will also need to provide the parenting time schedule (including holiday schedules) for time with children.

On forms regarding child support, you will need to provide each parent’s income and expenses, and all information required under the guideline formula necessary to calculate support. You will need to agree on a sum for each child, the date it must be paid, who is the payor of support, and who receives the payments.

The court will review all information carefully before entering any orders regarding child custody and child support. If information is missing or proposed support does not meet the state guidelines, you will need to provide it before an order will be entered.

Seek Guidance from an Experienced Attorney

While you can pursue a DIY child support arrangement or modification of an existing agreement on your own in California, it’s not as easy as it seems. Even parents who approach the task agreeably may later find that they do not see eye to eye on some issues. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” Never is this more accurate than when negotiating the details of an agreement that affects each parent’s relationship with their children forever.

It is wise for parents pursuing a DIY divorce to seek the advice of a family law attorney to ensure that your best interests, and those of your children, are served. You may not need to hire a child support attorney to negotiate agreements on your behalf and spend the money that level of involvement would cost. Seeking sound legal advice and instruction, though, is probably well worth the smaller investment you would need to make.

At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I offer alternatives to traditional attorney-client relationships. I provide as little or as much counsel as you need to craft a child support arrangement or to modify an existing one. While you want to do much of the work yourself, you do not have to do it all alone.

If you live in Ontario or Riverside, California, or in San Bernardino or Riverside counties, call my office today to discuss how I can help you in this process.