Attorney for Child Support & Alimony

Parent Q&A

Recommendations for a mediator for child support? Aug 4, 2017 (1 responses below)
late or missing child support payments Apr 4, 2017 (2 responses below)
  • Posting because the archived q&a on this is pretty dated.  My coparent and I need to come up with a formal agreement on child support for our toddler, and are looking for someone in Berkeley or close by.  It would be good to find someone who comes across as fair to both sides and who has expertise in ]child support law.  Thanks!

    Child support is probably the co-parent issue that needs the least mediation-- it's just math. The state has a formula and you can access the calculator online. Just plug in your numbers (income, exemptions, child care costs, etc.) and the percent time the child has with each parent and you get your objective and fair amount of support. Even if you take it to court, there's not much, if anything, to be negotiated. As long as you already have a custody plan in place, it's simple and easy. The Alameda county Department of Child Support Services can help, too.

  • late or missing child support payments

    (2 replies)


    While my ex used to pay his child support payments on time he has recently been slipping.  For the last several months the payments have been late and I've had to remind him, and now he's stopped paying all together.  Since things are very tight for me financially (I have full custody of our three teenagers) this has resulted in my paying bills late.  Is there any other recourse besides taking him to court? I neither have the time nor the money for that and my attorney has retired.  I'm grateful for any advice.


    I do not have personal experience with child support, but I do have teenagers and I know how expensive they can be.  I don't think you need a lawyer - a lot of this stuff is online now.   The state of California Dept. of Child Support Services has a bunch of info on their website about how to get started.   You really need to take action, because it might take a while to process.  Good luck!

    Department of Child Support Services will help you at no cost.  You have to open an account with them. They have a web site. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Child Support Attorney - Need an excellent one FAST

Jan 2012

Hi, I haven't seen very recent recommendations online for an attorney for CHILD SUPPORT matters, so am reaching out here. I need a recommendation right away! In or near Berkeley is best; am looking for a sharp, quick, effective, and firm attorney who knows the ins & outs of child support calculations and can get to the heart of the matter quickly; this isn't a sophisticated case and won't be drawn out, but I need the sharp legal mind who can do an excellent job right away! Have you got the name of someone for me? (or others you would not recommend) Thanks so much! Papers to be filed soon

I highly recommend family law attorney Nadine Burg. She was very savvy, sensitive to the plight I was in during my divorce (in which I was constantly fending off unfair demands made by my ex), and--most importantly--Nadine was extremely helpful. I found her to be both really intelligent, but also warm and welcoming. Her office is in downtown Oakland 510-698-2874 Good luck to you! Doug in Berkeley

Attorney for child support case involving business income

Dec 2011

Can anyone recommend a good attorney who has worked with cases that involve business income reporting for child support purposes? My child's father sold a business in the last year and I'm trying to have the income from the business and from the sale proceeds accounted for in the child support money he owes me and I'm not sure where to start. I want to have a strong proof before I notify DCSS. There are also other issues that need to be addressed as well. Thank you. Single mom

Try giving Dominic Porrino a call at 510-653-8886. He is very good at getting to the bottom of things. He is very thoughtful and easy to work with. Jacques

Alimony and child support - never married

Oct 2011

I am facing eviction by my partner of 16 yrs. We lived as married couples but we did not get marriage license, personal choice. I was and still am the stay home mom I had to quit my job and stay with kids. My partner owns the house, bought it when we were expecting our first child. Recently I found out that he has been cheating and when I confronted him he was mad and became physically abusive and asked me to leave. I am not employed and is not willing to help us finacially unless there is a court order. I am looking for a job, but it does not look very promising. What do I do? I don't want to take my kids to the shelter. anon

Separating after many years together is stressful enough without having to worry about where to live and whether you will have the support you need for yourself and your children. I am sorry to hear you are in such as position and hope that things have calmed since your posting. You should know that unmarried couples are not legally entitled to support payments unless they have a written agreement or a court finds there was an oral or implied agreement. In other words, you and your partner would have to have discussed support and made an agreement/contract that he would support you. It sounds like that may have happened when you quit your job to raise the kids. I hope so. Regardless, you will certainly be entitled to some child support to cover the cost of necessities for your children. I would recommend you call Bay Area Legal Aid. They offer representation at reduced cost and are experts in child support and custody. (510) 663-4744 (General Number) (510) 250-5270 (Legal Assistance Line) Camille

Need good lawyer for alimony concerns

Aug 2011

I need a good lawyer who deals well with alimoney concerns. This is my situation: I am married for almost 18 years (I am 40) and I have a 9 year old girl. My husband makes almost $200 000 and I am basically a stay at home mom. I do work a little bit as a substitute preschool teacher and I make about $5000 per year. My husband wanted to and supported me to stay home with our daughter. He said that if I would work full time my money ( which would probably be no more than $30 000) would all be absorbed by taxes because he makes so much already. Also, he never wanted to share household duties with me and I can count on my 5 fingers how many times he helped her with homework. He just can't stand the fact coming home from work and pitching in. So the solution was that I stay home and he is the breadwinner. He was always very generous with money but at the same time very controlling. He didn't want me to pay the bills and discuss big purchases. I am more frugal and he is a spender. Our marriage was always an up and down but it got worse over the last few years. He told me a few weeks ago that he wanted a divorce. Now I am freaked out about what to do first. I haven't worked full time as a preschool teacher since about 10 years. I worked part time when my daughter was a preschooler and than when my husbands income was getting even better, I switched to be a substitute preschool teacher. I liked having the time for my daughter since she has ADHD and homework takes her forever. Right now I am looking for a preschool job but I know I could only make 30 000. The other problem I have is that I am dependent on my husband health insurance plan. I have a heart defect and need open heart surgery in a few years. I need to go to check ups to see if my condition gets worse ( I don't have any symptoms). It needs to be checked at least twice a year or my aorta could burst and I could end up in the emergency room most likely not surviving the event. When I have surgery, I wouldn't be able to work for 2-3 months after that. I am very worried to be just relying on my own health care plan which I would have from a preschool job. I heard of people not getting their jobs back after being sick for a while. Many preschools don't even offer any health care benefits and the job market also looks grim at the moment. I heard that in a long term marriage it is possible to get permanet spousal support. I don't mean that I don't want to work and be lazy but I am very worried about loosing health care coverage and relying on my low income job. I am on his Kaiser plan and since I am already on it they could switch it to a conversation plan. It would cost 550 per months and 1500 deductable. Is it reasonable to expect that he will pay my health care and alimoney ? Is it possible to get permanet support under these circumstences (longterm marriage, spouse with health issue, spouse with low income job ). Also, I wouldn't be able to get health insurance on my own with this preexisting condition. I would really like to stay on this conversation plan. I need a good lawyer (under 400 per hour) who is very good at dealing with this sort of issue. Any recommendation are very appreciated. anon

Take a deep breath. You have rights in this situation, and a good lawyer will be able to help you sort them out. Though I'm not a lawyer and can't offer legal advice I can say that your husband, if your case is as you describe it, will be ordered to pay both child support and alimony, and property in common will be divided. I don't have the name of a lawyer who will conduct litigation, but I do know a good lawyer who can offer advice or work with both you and your husband as a mediator. If you are able to work things out between yourselves with the help of a wise mediator, it can reduce the acrimony and stress, and reduction of stress seems particularly important in your case, with your health issues. I would recommend Eva Herzer in Albany: (510) 526-5146. Even if your husband does not want to try mediation, you could turn to Eva Herzer for advice as an individual (I am pretty sure she won't represent you in court, because she doesn't do litigation in divorce). She is a calm and strong presence. If you can talk to your husband and get him to listen in a reasonable way, see if you can get him to do mediation. That way some of your concerns about your health can be addressed; it's not just about you, he should understand, but about the well-being of your daughter going forward. Appeal to him on that basis, and if he is a loving father, he should respond. divorced mom

You are actually in a great posistion. Get the NoLo press book on divorce and that should help reassure you about your legal rights. My understanding - having gone through a divorce recently myself - you usually get spousal support for 1/2 the length of the marriage and in marriages over 10 years that can be extended, even indefinately, depending on the circumstances. After 10 years of marriage you are also eligible for your social security to be based on your husband's income history, rather than your own. You will be eligible for both spousal support and child support even if you ultimately have joint custody. The child support will continue until your child is 18, although child support is always modifiable. Spousal support is taxable, while child support is not. There are formulas you can look up online. A very rough guess is you would be eligible for about 5k a month in spousal and child support. You are also eligible for half of your husbands 401k and any other assets built up during the marriage.

I strongly recommend you get a good lawyer. As the less powerful party in the divorce, you have the most to lose if you go the route of mediation, collaborative divorce, etc. Choose your lawyer carefully. There are recommendations on BPN. Pick someone you like, because you will practicially be married to your lawyer during some of the negotiations and it is a very emotional process. Your husband will probably have to pay your lawyers fees as the sole wage earner. Again, this is something you can talk to your lawyer about in the initial consultation. Your husband might try and negotiate with you, even after you are represented by a lawyer, especially if he thinks he can manipulate you either with kindness or coersion. I strongly recommend drawing a strict boundary around the legal negotiation and the coparenting and emotional stuff. The legal stuff, usually money and custody, should be all handled by your lawyer and his lawyer. People warned me that if I did not mediate (rather than using a more traditional lawyer) things between my ex and I would escalate into full on war and custody disputes. I think it was just the opposite. By drawing clear boundaries, we were able to coparent even during the worst of it, and we ended with a settlement we both felt was liveable.

I do not have any direct experience with the medical insurance issue. My job includes health benefits. I am sure it is something that can be negotiated in some way - either in the form of some reimbursemnt for your monthly costs or something. Everything is up for negotiation. I negotiated 401k for the equity in our house (we had more equity back then, but I am still really glad I was able to keep the house).

Good luck. I send you my best wishes as someone who has been through a similar process and got out the other end so much happier. Happily divorced

Perhaps your husband expected more from you as a stay at home mom. Perhaps he has a lot of stress at work to earn all that salary and the only way he can cope is to not be stressed some more at home, esp. with your health issues, your child's ADHD and who knows what else. So in trying to cope he may come across as controlling. Perhaps there's other things going on at this point like an affair. At any rate divorce is a huge disaster for you, your husband, your child and society at large. The emotional and financial scars are terrifying. So if at all possible reconcile! But if you have to unilaterally accept divorce and get fair treatment from the court system, a good lawyer is Tracey Kaufman in Oakland at (510)763-3000. She tends to be conservative and meticulous in her filings and communication which earns the judges' respect. But she can also represent you aggressively if the other side tries to take advantage of you or does not consider the children's best interests. And she also has a sense of humor. All this suited me fine as I tried to reconcile for many months with an irrational and abusive spouse. It could get very expensive in general but she tries to work as efficiently as possible to keep costs down. You should also read up on Family Law so you understand how messy and limited it is. Her partner Hannah Sims is also very nimble, especially in court and tax issues. One negative is that they sometimes get very busy with cases and don't respond right away. anon

Three family law attorneys who I know professionally and recommend - Heba Nimr, Dylan Miles and Charlie Speigel. Heba Bimr is in the east bay, others are in SF. Ilene D.

My husband wants to continue supporting his kids after 18

Feb 2011

My husband and I have been married for 3 years and we have a 1 year old son together. He has two daughters from a previous marriage. The girls just turned 18 and will be off to college this fall. As a family, we have had to live on a very tight budget in order for him to fulfill his obligations to his daughters. We rarely eat out, buy second hand clothes and never have any money to do anything. We have separate accounts and split our basic expenses, such as our mortgage, car payment, PG, etc. 50/50. But because he doesn't have any money left after the child support payments and living expenses, I have had to buy everything for the baby from my own money. I have assumed that once he stops paying child support, that this money would be spent on our family. However, he would now like to give this money directly to the girls. I would like the money spent on us so that we don't feel so poor all the time. Is it unreasonable to want him to spend money on us instead of giving it to the girls as spending money? anonymous

I'm going to be blunt here. You married a man with children, therefore with pre-existing (and never-ending) responsibilities to others outside your nuclear family. I understand that this might be inconvenient for you. But I would challenge you to look at this situation objectively, and view his daughters the same way you would view your own child. This is hard to do, I know. But would you want your husband to stop supporting your own son? How would you feel about him as a man and as a father if he did that?

It is your responsibility to support your husband's relationship with his pre-existing children. Even if you don't want to, even if you don't like them, even if it costs your family money. That's what you signed up for.

Again, how would you feel if your husband were, in the future, to cut off your son financially when he was in college because he had made a new baby with a new wife? all for dad being responsible for ALL his kids

Yes, it is unreasonable. Children in their late teens and early twenties often continue to get some level of financial support from their parents. Your husband's daughters are probably just as dear to him as your son is to you and he will want to help them out, in one way or another, probably forever. Legal obligation may end at 18, but parental love and care sure don't. I would really resent a new spouse who begrudged me helping my kids out. single mom with kids

As a stepmother whose steps are in their mid to late 20s and still receiving various forms of parental financial support, I have sympathy for you! You may need to work this out with a counselor, however. I don't think it's right that your husband should just turn over the child support to the kids now that they are 18 (that amount may be way over what they need particularly if he is already paying their room and board at college). But nor do I think it is necessarily appropriate to stop giving them any money. He'll hopefully be giving your joint son money when he is in college too.

There is also the issue of whether he is doing enough for his son. You seem to suggest that he's giving the daughters a lot more than he is giving his son, perhaps because their mom isn't able to provide for her children the way you are able to provide for yours. Again, been there, done that. But, unfortunately, things aren't always totally fair in this regard. He can't cut his children off just because their mother is a deadbeat. And, would you really want him to be the kind of person that could?

As a piece of practical advice, you should make sure your husband has life insurance sufficient to give his son what he's given his daughters, if it should happen that he is not around to provide for your son through young adulthood as he is doing for his daughters. And if that is there, you may be able to let go of some of your resentment for what he is doing for the daughters right now.

Again, I strongly suggest counseling (even if your husband won't go, you should) on this issue. There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in it and it can be very tricky. Just wait until the daughter is 28 and going to Europe twice a year and then phones up to say she needs money to pay her taxes. Feel for you.

You are fortunate to have married a man who is striving to do the right thing for his children. College is expensive and he is trying to support their efforts because it's the right thing to do. You want him to do the same for your child someday don't you? I also don't think it's fair to dismiss his proposed contribution to his girls as giving them ''spending money''. I've got a kid in college and financial aid, if you are looking enough to get any, doesn't not cover everything.

Be happy you got the man. You and your child get to be with him every day and every night. His daughters' didn't have him around like that while they were growing up but he's obviously trying hard to do right by them. Also, I would avoid issues that could be interpreted as you thinking that your child is better than, more valued than, or more deserving than his two older kids. You may not like how that played out.

Finally you knew he had other kids when you married him and you also knew it when you chose to have another child with him. Enjoy your family. If you are lucky, he will be as good to your child someday as he is to the girls.

Good luck dont drive him off a good man

This is a difficult position for both you to be in. I have been on both sides of this situation. 18 is a legal number not a family one. It is wonderful that your husband wants to continue to support his girls. Are you planning on cutting your child off when he turns 18?

When you talk of ''our family'' you have to understand that your husband's daughters are his family. When he gives them money he is spending it on his family. If you want your husband to be a good father, you have to let him be a good father to all of his children. Not just the one you share.

Put yourself in his place, married to someone who is not the father of your child and who does not love or know your child the way you do. Imagine that person trying to make you cut your child off so that ''your family'', which does not include your child, can go to the movies and eat dinner out. Would you choose to go to the movies or out to dinner instead of helping your child in college?

That said, your husband should contribute to his third child's expenses too. My advice is for you two to agree on a monthly amount for your child's expenses and split it. If he wants to continue to support his daughters with the money he has left over instead of on making you feel less poor, that's his choice. You don't get to decide what his relationship with his children will be or what sense of obligation he feels. This is about his needs as much as it is about his daughter's.

I have been in your exact situation. I spent a lot of time being bitter and resentful, trying to control his relationship with his daughter and his ex-wife. I should have been his friend and supporter not another angry person playing tug-of-war with his affections, money and time. Eventually we divorced.

I have since had the shoe on the other foot. I have two grown children and grandkids. My son struggles to stay in school and make ends meet. Sometimes he needs money to buy a bart ticket to get to school. He works, but it's not enough. My daughter is also a student and has three kids and sometimes her fridge is empty. I buy food for her. I slip her some money. I buy clothes for my grandchildren. A boyfriend once demanded I cut them off at 18. I refused. I cut him off instead.

Don't put your husband in that position. It is awful to have to choose between your children and your spouse. I will never abandon my children and will never again allow anyone to dictate the terms on which I relate to them, financial or otherwise. Been there and there too.

There is quite a bit of information lacking in your post that might be relevant -- for instance, I assume that these girls also still have a mother, and that she is supposed to contribute to their support as well? Having said that, your husband's daughters, though they have turned 18, are still his girls. I fully expect to help fund my son's college years along with my ex-husband, and my present partner understands that I would see this as my responsibility. It is a tough row to hoe, being married to a person with prior obligations, but the obligations to our kids don't end with the end of high school. You might be able to persuade him to decrease the amount of support, but usually the need for support actually goes up in college. You are probably in for another period of tightening your belt; if he is a good husband and dad to your child, then it is worth some more patience! also paying child support

This is a tough one. unfortunately, you will not understand (or feel) the responsible dad's guilt and desire to help his daughters until your child is grown ... that will be many years from now.

This is one of the primary struggles of what i call 'different in life stages'. It sounds like he is older, or maybe he had his kids very young.

Try to think from his daughters' perspective. There should come a time when the college aged kids take care of themselves... but this is happeneing later and later in todays society as education becomes more expensive and the distribution of wealth is moved to the wealthiest of the wealthy.

so, hang in there... appreciate the simple things in life. appreciate that he wants to do well by his daughters... you would want the same thing for your baby and yourself. and and and... remember: the best things in life aren't things. -- a dad

What might seem fair to me is to continue to give the girls some support, and direct some of the money to their little brother. Most kids your stepdaughters' age still receive some parental support. Those in college are supported and those who aren't often need help to as they transition to self- sufficiency. He could either give them an allowance or put a set amount from each check into an account to be able to help them when they really need it (car repairs, security deposit, medical bills, etc.). I do think a reduction in the amount is appropriate as they are grown and capable of beginning to support themselves.

BTW: I am assuming they are not going to college, because you wouldn't argue that he should consider withholding college support, right? If he refused, the girls would be in the position of having a ''phantom'' parent contribution, a financial aid term for kids whose parents are determined to be able but not willing to pay. They generally either can't go to school or must take on unmanageable levels of debt to go. Anon

I just wanted to add that it is perfectly normal for you to feel like your child and you are having to go without while your stepchildren are perhaps living a much more comfortable existence monetarily. It may or may not actually be the case, but I think it's important to acknowledge your feeling about this so as to be able to say--yeah, I hate feeling this way, so how can I make the best of the actual situation and move past this feeling? A relationship with a divorced partner with children, as you now know, becomes much more complicated once you have a child together. The whole ''you signed up for'' it answers one typically receives in this situation are just not helpful. Just because you ''signed up'' for such a complicated relationship to begin with, doesn't mean it doesn't change over time and present new, even more challenging issues that one isn't always prepared to deal with. So I just wanted to add that feeling this way doesn't make you an evil stepmother, and you should definitely have a forum for being able to talk about this--therapy, close friends, whatever.

That said, it's in everyone's best interest to think of ''your family'' as a whole, which includes your stepchildren, whether you are close to them or not. It's important to talk to your partner about what you and he want to provide for all of your children financially, emotionally, etc. Although it's a little uncool to invoke, I'd recommend checking out this Oprah article on how to begin a dialogue about money and goals with your partner: Money-Problems

Good luck--we all have less than perfect feelings and responses to situations, but we vent, rethink and regroup to keep trying to do the best for all our children however they've come into our lives.

A cautionary tale: A friend of mine recently lost her husband of 20 years. It was unexpected and heartbreaking for her and her two school-aged children. The biggest support people for them were his two grown daughters from his first marriage. These wonderful young women surrounded this second family with love and warmth, and were particularly helpful to their younger half-sibs. The lesson: Make these older children your own, and they will make you their own. You will all benefit. Life is Long

2007 - 2009 Discussions

How much Child Support would my boyfriend have to pay?

May 2008

I am seeking references for a family attorney or community member whom can advise me on how much child support I should expect or ask for from my ex boyfriend. He lives out of state so I would also need advise on how to go about the legalities of this situation. It is a senstitive subject and I don't want to cause conflict, as I honestly believe he will not tolerate our suffering and will contribute as needed but I do not want to be selfish or too needy as well (:

In California, there is a computer program, called ''Dissomaster'', which calculates child support based on the incomes of the parents. If you know your ex-boyfriend's financial data, you can, if you are computer literate, calculate what is considered a reasonable amount of child support based upon those figures along with the percentage of time that the child will be in the custody of your boyfriend and yourself.

Computers running Dissomaster are usually available (free) in all courts here. If you have to get a court order for child support, you will probably file in California, and so, Dissomaster will be applicable.

If you are not able to do the above, consult a Family Law attorney; they all have copies of Dissomaster on their computers.

Is your ex-boyfriend interested in shared parenting? Under most circumstances, this is best for the child. Robert

Gary Silber is a really good family law attorney with many years of experience. He should be able to help you. His number is 925-937-1100. divorced mommy

My ex wants child support and full custody

January 2007

My ex and I are now legally divorced. The last remaining hitch is that our finances are still shared in that we have not separated out the 401k issues and we have joint saving accounts etc. My ex is living with his girlfriend and her 2 children. They just bought a house together. He has been stalling in wrapping up the matter for the past few months. I am supposed to pay him child support which I find outrageous since he just bought a $900,000 home while I own a more modest home. He also just bought a new luxury car with his girlfriend. Since our finances are not split as of yet, I have been writing out the checks to our son's school tuition out of my own account. Plus I buy most of his clothes and pay for other items.

Recently, my ex has started hinting at having our child stay wiht him full time and me seeing him over the weekends. The MSA currently dictates a shared custody with him spending 80%of his time with me. My question is this. If he gets legally married again, does that affect the Child support since their combined income will definitely be more than mine? Secondly, since our finances are still joint and I am paying for his school tuition and other necessities. Would I still be required to pay child support going back to July or would it only kick in once we have wrapped up the finances? Lastly and more importantly, can he claim full custody of my son by any means? (he will not be able to prove that I am unfit). He will just want physical custody as I am pretty sure he wants me to keep paying him child support.

I am really tired of trying to keep one step ahead of his games. Still embroiled

You don't say anything about this, but you should get legal advice and tax advice from a professional if you haven't already. And I would, as a woman who has just gone through a divorce, counsel you to get a mediator to work with your ex if at all possible. I know it costs money, and it sounds as if you probably are struggling (especially if you're paying child support -- when you are doing 80% of the care? it shouldn't be much child support). But a good mediator will save you headaches and probably money you should not spend on a lawyer if you can at all avoid it. Also, getting lawyers involved in a child custody case is really the worse thing for children, if one is to believe the large amount of research done on the subject. So if you can get the ex to a mediator to discuss custody and support and get yourself a good tax accountant, you would be well served. Judith Joshel in Berkeley was a good mediator for me and my ex, and Eva Herzer in Berkeley was a good adviser (lawyer) and also acts as a mediator. professional advice the best way to go

I have divorced recently and my child is quite a bit older than yours (10), but even so it seems to me that he really needs mom- time. He is much more needy and wanting warmth and cuddling than he was before the divorce (a year ago). I would sit down with your soon-to-be-ex and a marriage counselor if you're not sure about leaving the marriage -- and with a mediator if you are sure. You could also consult with a lawyer before going to the mediator to understand your rights. For instance, unless the substance abuse has led to jail time or institutionalization (and thus in on the books) I don't think it would have much impact on his parental rights. But a lawyer would know that better than I. You need information. It may also be that your husband would not mind having less custody, but that's something you would need to explore with him, and I think that a conversation like that goes much easier with a mediator. Judith Joshel and Eva Herzer are both good people with whom I've had experience. good luck with the hard road

Hi, I have gone through a divorce and a custody battle. My brother is also a family law attorney. So here is what I know. I am not sure why you have to pay child support if you have the children 80% of the time. It sounds strange if he makes a decent living (is his income hidden?). I don't know how old your children are or if you live in the same town. But, normally the courts are not going to give custody to your husband unless; there is a very unfit Mother. He might get more time, but not custody. I would get as much time as you can, because that is what child support is based on.

As far as private school. It depend on who wants the school. If you both decided that you want the children to go to the private school, then the cost should be shared, but the courts does not consider private school a cost that must be shared. Normally, medical costs, insurance, daycare and special needs are to be shared.

If your husband gets married, her income will not be considered for child support. But, if you do go to court, go before he gets married. Cause if he claims her and her two kids on his taxes, it will make a small difference with child support. Once a court order is made to pay child support you have to start paying it. It doesn't matter if the divorce it final. Hope this helps. You had a lot of info., so I hope I got it all. Lisa

Where's your lawyer? I think he/she would be able to answer a lot (if not all) of your questions. Sounds like such a hard situation. Best of luck to you. anonymous

Dear Embroiled, Given your request for very specific legal advice, I highly recommend that you check out the Nolo Press Website ( or consult a family law attorney- maybe the attorney who handled your original divorce? I would be wary of relying on anecdotal information from the lay public. Given the individual complexities of each case, you are unlikley to get accurate information unless you consult with a professional.

Please consult a good family law attorney NOW. DO NOT decrease your percentage of custody! You pay child support based much upon that percentage. And you may never get that time with your child back. Custodial time is often based upon the status quo. Be very careful. It sounds like he is planning to take your child and your money. Harsh words but sound advice.

Wow, Anon, my heart feels for you. It's such a hard decision when you think that your happiness might be opposed to your child's. I wanted to leave my husband for many years and didn't do so until my son was five, when i finally realized my son would be better off if he had two happy parents living apart. But it took me many years to get there and i don't know how he would have handled it earlier. In the end, my son is doing really well. He's with me 60% of the time and my ex 40%. I think the reason my son is doing well is that since we've been divorced we no longer fight in front of him, we are both happier in our lives, and we are careful never say anything bad about each other. We went through mediation which I would really recommend. It's much less expensive than hiring lawyers. We used Larry Rosen, who i saw recommended on this site. It was a good process (very healing in some ways). I hear Jennifer Jackson in SF is also very good. She started Kids Turn, which you might also want to check into. It provides support to kids going through divorce. It helped my son a lot! You might want to call Kids Turn for a recommendation on a child psychologist. Maybe he/she can help you determine how tough divorce will be on your young son. If he/she says its okay for your son, then my advice is to take care of yourself first and foremost. If that means getting divorced, then get divorced. If that means getting couples counseling, do that. But you are a much better mom if you are happy and your husband will be a much better dad if you can help him in becoming happy. A last thought: if your son has love and support in his life and never sees his parents fighting with each other, he'll be okay. That's not an expert opinion, but it proved to work for us. Love, support and never having to choose between parents. I know it's not always easy being a mom. My prayers to you, Anon. Jessie

Should I file for child support?

January 2007

My daughter's father and I have not been together since before she was born. When we separated we put together an agreement (not legally binding) to share custody and expenses 50/50. Things were friendly for a while, but in the last few years we have had several conflicts, and he has become angry and hostile toward me. He will not go into mediation or couseling with me. I have been considering seeking child support through the county system because I'm struggling financially and he earns a lot more money than I do. My hesitations are: 1) It will jeopardize what little we have left of cooperative parenting; 2) He will get a lawyer which will cost me a lot more in money and aggravation. I'm not looking for legal advice here, but for how to solve this delemma with the least adverse impact on my daughter and myself.

Hi, I think you should file for child support. I understand trying not to irritate your ex, for the sake of some sort of parental cooperation; but there are some things we need to do to care for our children. The fact that he will be angry should not keep you from your responsibilities. I learned that I need to stand up for myself and not be pushed around due to fear of the unknown. Go fill out the paperwork! You need to show your daughter and your ex that you will take care of business. Your ex may learn to respect you if you do what you need to do and your daughter will learn from your strength!

My mother failed to get child support and we lived at the poverty level, while my dad lived very well with his new family. As a parent I understood what message I wanted to give my children. My ex still complains about ''all of the money he has to pay'', but my children know that the law is clear and the drama distorts! Been there

I don't mean to sound harsh or even judgmental about your situation, but I work with many women in similar situations.It never ceases to amaze me how often women will ignore their own anger and needs out of fear of making their (ex)spouse or child's father upset.

I encourage you to stop putting his needs above your own and do what is best for you and your daughter. You can certainly let him know that you are considering taking legal action and give him a chance to respond but it will be crucial to follow through. If you make empty threats, he will lose respoct for you and he will not take action.

Your daughter deserves to be taken care of by her own father. Every county has a department (either through the county or the DA's office) for Child Support Services. You may also want to contact them to ask how best to handle this situation.

It's not easy, but perhaps it's time to get some legally binding agreements in place. The expenses will only increase as your daughter grows older. susan

You are lucky to be living in the State of California. This website will answer all your questions.

I could be wrong, but my understanding that - in this state, failure to pay child support will bar you from certain professions AND I believe if awarded child support, it is automatic garnishment of wages. Your ex is required to support your child.

If he begins to demand a different vistation or custody rights, than you might have to get an attorney and go to Family Court. I believe the court can assign you one. However, many excellent, expensive attorneys take on Pro Bono assigments from the court.

My mom raised my five brothers and sisters alone. Very little child support from my father. You'll be fine. More than fine. Mare

2004 - 2006 Discussions

Child Support for a step-sibling?

September 2006

Dear Parents, I can't say how many times I've used BPN to answer questions and improve my visitation time with my daughter over the years but didn't imagine I would need to post an advice Q for help myself. But here I am. After several years of paying child support and parenting my daughter, her mother and I are unfortunately reentering mediation for custody and support. As the non-custodial father in this case, I am familiar with the black box of Dissomaster, which was used 9 years ago in our first and only (so far) established court order. I spend about 20 percent of the annual time with my daughter. My question is related to these circumstances: to my shock and surprise, under an area called 'special circumstances' on her income and expense delaration, the mother is asking for the court to consider additional support for her other child, who is not related to me, and who is 6 years younger than our daughter (now 13). We were never married and have both married other people, but her husband (the father of our child's step-sister), is unable to work due to an injury. Can I be held responsible for the financial support of my daughter's step-sister, if I don't have visitation with her, and if she's unrelated to me? I will be seeking other help for this question too, but I just wanted to know if anyone on the network ever had any experience with this or similar circumstances. Child-support for a step-sibling seems like it could be the state's default 'responsible' position, but quite unfair from another point of view. If you think it might make a differnce in the court's mind, my income is really low. Thanks very much for your help

Actually having just done this, my lawyer said the special circumstances is that the parent recieving the cs has another child that she is fully supporting. you are not providing support for both children, but an additional financial hardship that she has, is being acknowledged. What you end up paying is ultimately up to the judge.
been there

My son's father is refusing to pay child support

June 2006

My sons father is refusing to pay child support. He had a job and I originally had a wage assignment ( got 1 check so far ) however he recently told me that he will stop working next week. I'm sure it has to do with him having to pay child support. If he is now unemployed, or takes a job owned by a family business and says he is making a lot less money ( I'm sure some of it will be paid under the table), what can I do? Will he have to pay what the court has ordered him to pay even though he is unemployed? I don't have a lot of money for a lawyer. Please Help!!

You can call Child Support Services and open a case with them... If you already have a court ordered child support order then it is my understanding that they will pursue any monies due. I am in the process of doing this as my sons father quit his job after having one child support payment deducted. I am in the process of filing something with Child Support Services to collect monies owed. The Court Order was effective as of Jan 1st of this year. I am told he will be responsible for any pymts not made as well as interest. It is my understanding that HE has to go to court if his financial circumstances have changed...... Hope this helps anon

Probably the court will not demand he pay, unless you can find evidence to support that he is getting money under the table. Though it is hard in your situation, remeber that if he is unemployed, he isn't making more money than you are. The whole point of child support is for the parent making more money to help the other parent cover child care expenses. He won't be making more money than you now, so it wouldn't make sense for him to pay child support in our legal system.

As the child of a man who spent a great deal of ingenuity and energy avoiding paying a cent, I can tell you (I'm an adult now) that you may find yourself in an uphill battle that may not be worth it.

When I was 25 years old my father told me during a phone conversation how he purposely moved to different states and quit jobs to avoid paying child support. My mother told me that in addition to that, he took jobs for ridiculously low wages (his child support payments were a joke) and he out right lied in court. There was nothing she could do. We ended up on assistance for many years.

Have you talked with a representative at Friend of the Court? They are experienced in such matters and don't charge (as far as I know) for advice.

Be prepared for the fact that you can only do so much. If a man is determined not to pay child support, he will go to interesting extremes to avoid it. I know one man who moved from England to the US to avoid paying it there. He said that since his wife had cheated on him and then married the guy, HE could take care of things.

I also met a man who was purposely living as a homeless person to avoid paying child support.

Also note that this situation may drag on a heck of a lot longer than you imagine. When I was in my 30's, my father got a job that triggered some system and the Friend of the Court went after him for back payments. My mother (by this time remarried) and my father's parents, and I were all dragged into a nasty legal situation. At some point you are going to have to decide if all the hassle is really worth it.

I wish I had more optimism for you, but I have been through this - my father didn't support me...he refused to pay...and lived his life under the radar in order to accomplish that.

I wish the best of luck to you and your child/ren anon

Child support payments are not going for the kids

May 2006

My husband pays child support to his ex for his 2 kids (age 13 & 9). They used to live with us for 2 years and I know that it does not take the amount that we pay her to ''cover'' for the kids. Her new husband makes a good wage and supports the house, their new baby, etc. She does not work outside of the house.

We know from speaking with the kids that they do not get any ''extras'' from the money (haircuts, new clothes, school pictures, sports programs, etc) but that the mom uses it for herself for haircuts, pedicures, new clothes for her new baby, etc. When they lived with us, we paid for sports, clothes, etc and it still didn't cost the amount that we pay for support.

The kids live with us 7 weeks out of the summer and like to go to the local Boys and Girls club when they are here. It works out because they can see friends during the day and we can have family time in the evening and weekends.

We still have to pay the child support while the kids are here and it is so frustrating because the B club is exactly what we pay. The ex won't contribute to the club, even though she knows how much they like it there. We end up paying double for B and don't get to write off any at the end of the year as she gets to claim both kids on her taxes.

Is it worth our time/effort to go back to court to get this changed?? Is there ways to ''prove'' what she is spending the money on?? Should we just let it go and wish the kids hadn't told us how she spends the money? We are so frustrated that maybe we are not seeing this as clearly as it is? Is there anyone in the same boat? UGH!!! Frustrated

Don't forget that your husband is the father of those children and he did not (or at least I hope should not have) divorced his kids. The money is used to support the household in which those children are raised. Exactly how those dollars get used is not your business. Anon

Do you mean they never get haircuts, new clothes, etc. when they are with their mom, but only when they are with you & hubby? Or that you have to send extra money to cover each such item when they are with her & need a haircut, etc.? If so, that seems contrary to the idea of child support.

If you mean that they do get those things when with her but that the child support $'s go into her general checking account rather than into a separate account for the kids, that's not an appropriate concern. Child support is designed to contribute to many expenses of having children at home way beyond individual items that can be listed.

You also have (a few of) those expenses when they are with you, but that's only for 7 weeks out of a whole year! If they happen to need a haircut or jacket etc. when they are visiting, what's the problem?

The facts that her husband makes a good salary & that she doesn't work are irrelevant. If anything, her being a SAHM is nice for all the kids.

Now- this is something that I feel VERY strongly about- DO NOT involve your husband's children in this in any way, DO NOT ask them for info, DO NOT respond to anything they mention with your own feelings, DO NOT talk about it with or in front of them. I'm directing this to both you & your husband.

I was in the same situation as your stepchildren are as a child, my stepmother resented the amount of child support payments my father sent to my mother, she spoke openly about her feelings, my father sometimes grumbled about it, & it was absolutely AWFUL for me- it was not my problem & there was nothing I could do about it.

You don't say whether the children feel deprived, or much about your husband feelings- you say ''we'', but really you've focussed on your own feelings. Being a stepmother is a complicated & not always very satisfying role to play, but you must not let money matters affect your relationship with the kids or with your husband. Look very carefully at where your own feelings are coming from.

Your husband could ask the court to re-evaluate the situation, but if nothing has changed since the arrangements were made there is no reason for the court to change them.

You knowingly married a man with two children.

I am not in your situation, but I am a divorced mom who has been accused of spending child support money on other things. First, let me say that child support is supposed to be the non- custodial parent's contribution to the household that the children are living in. Not necessarily for extra things, unless these things are spelled out in the agreement. But if I want to get my nails done, a massage, my hair done, please don't assume I am spending my child support money. Should the mom stop doing all of these things just so you don't think she's spending child support money on them? Now if the kids were starving and weren't properly clothed, then wonder where the money is going. I would also wonder if she was asking you for extra money for other things. If she's not, it's not a cause for concern. It sounds like you're letting children be involved in something that should be handled in a courtroom amongst adults.
Divorced mom who takes care of me & the kids.

sorry to be the one to break it to you. Your husband is going to have to see an attorney to answer your question about weather or not to request a modification of the support payment. Your arguments of money not going to the kids or money paid during kids' time at your home, however, will carry not much weight in court. it is not necessary to show a direct connection between what is paid in support and what is used for the kids. if that were the case - no support payment could be collected for household payments for groceries for the entire family, or the roof over the kids' heads. the ex-wife's new spouse's income only goes into the equation in figuring out what is her income tax liability - which goes into determining HER disposable income.

Sounds to me like the real problem is that YOU see all that money leaving your household in child support. it is never easy to pay support. it always costs more to maintain two households instead of one unified household. it always feels like a lot of money flying out the window monthly. hope you find a way to reconcile your feeling about the money, and do not take on any bitterness - especially against the children. its not their fault.

Good Luck. Hope you find a good lawyer to review your husband's case. If things have changed significantly, it may be worthwhile to pay a lawyer to check if support could be modified.

You said: ''We know from speaking with the kids that they do not get any ''extras'' from the money (haircuts, new clothes, school pictures, sports programs, etc) but that the mom uses it for herself for haircuts, pedicures, new clothes for her new baby, ...''

You know for a fact that they're telling you the truth? Sounds to me like their pissed off that their mother is giving too much attention to her newborn. If true, it's really unfortunate because now these kids are not getting devoted attention from either parent.

How old are these kids? So you believe every school year, they don't get any new clothes? That's hard to believe considering the rate in which kids grow out of them. You believe they don't get haircuts?? Why doesn't your husband ASK the mother if this is true or not. It doesn't have to be a contentious conversation, he can just say ''Little John told us today that he doesn't seem to be getting any new clothes or haircuts and was told he couldn't join the soccer team (or whatever activity he wanted to join) because there wasn't any money. Is this true?''

This is definitely not a conversation YOU should be involved in. This is between him and his ex. If it turns out that money isn't being spent on the kids, then yes, go to court and make sure that it does.

My parents divorced when I was 11 and I recall with pain the games both parents and their new spouses played with the kids; about money, visitation, everything. Please re-consider your motives and feelings in this matter. You have decades left to make money with your spouse, and the children will be adults in only a few years.

It is wrong to assume that everything your step-kids tell you about their mother, and how she spends her money, is true. You have their father and that gives you immense power over them. Children are very capable of determining what you want to hear and they will tell you these things to try to win your love. You are clearly focused on money and they know it. This is a betrayal of their mother, but that only underscores the desperation and pain that your step-children are in right now.

It doesn't matter that the mother's new husband makes good wages. He isn't the father, your husband is. He probably dislikes having his money go to kids that aren't his as much as you do. I imagine that your attitude about money has hardened the birth mother's attitude about child support. She probably knows that if she lessens your husband's financial commitments now, that you will find new arguments to pay even lss money later. She would be an idiot to accept less and start an unpleasant precedent. Would you? My response is more a plea for you to realize that your comments are just like the comments of some step-parents, who really, deep down, just do not want their money, time and love to go to someone else and someone else's kids. You probably don't realize it, but the kids do and the situation you are describing will likely lead to significant problems in the kids' emotional development. What are you doing talking about how their mother spends money, anyway? Did you stop them and re-direct their focus on good things about their mother, or did you lead them on and encourage them to focus even more on negativity? It is dangerous to involve the children like this. I hope you and your family make it through this.
An experienced step child

I know this is hard, but you are really better off letting it go. I too am the second wife of a man who had to pay a TON of child support for many years, with few visible signs of it! The kids always seemed to have old clothes, they felt poor, etc. etc., while my husband was paying 10-12K per month to support their household. The mom was, however, really good about taking them out to dinner every night at places like Subway, having all the premium cable TV channels, leasing a new car every two years, paying $800 for a purebred dog..... She is/was a sweet person, just not a very good manager and not high energy (to say the least). The hardest part for us was that the kids viewed us as rich (because both of us worked and we made more money than she) while they felt their mom was poor because she never seemed to have any money. But in their eyes she was fun and generous because she'd take them out to dinner and buy them a dog, while we were boring and stingy because we ate at home, drove old cars, and put money in their college funds. It was also really tough because my husband's income fluctuated from month to month, yet he always had to pay her the same no matter what. Many months he would actually give her MORE than he had earned. But, college is almost paid for now, and we're almost done. And, we're all fine, and on good terms. That is really what matters, in the end. And I'm not bitter at all. Really.

- If you feel the child support payments need to be adjusted, then by all means go to court and get a new agreement based on current income and expenses, etc. But as far as you judging what their mother spends the money on? Leave that one alone and do not encourage the kids to get involved in this by asking them questions about how money is spent. After all, how do you know if it is ''your'' money she is spending clothes for the new baby or her pedicure or her new husband's?

My ex-husband gave me a miserable amount of child support, and if I happened to buy a new pair of shoes he'd immediately accuse me of spending the child support money on myself. What he gave me was a drop in the bucket, yet he insisted on paying only for things that went to my child (wanted a list of the things he needed so that he would spend the child support amount on them and I'd be responsible for the rest). Well, as far as I'm concerned, I'm allowed to have a new pair of shoes and it is nobody's business but mine how much they cost. And by the way children expenses consist of more than camp. There's the water bill, the mortgage, the electric bill, gas from driving them around, clothes, food, doctor co-pays, birthday parties (theirs and their friends), etc.

I'm sure their mother has their best interests in mind and is taking good care of them. If that is not the case then your husband should be thinking about making sure they are well cared for, not of giving her less money.
an ex-wife

The things about child support in CA that can be frustrating for payor parents is two-fold. First, there is no accountability for the money being used on the children. There is no way that the court system could handle the load of complaints from families that want to prove that the payee is not using the money on the kids, and strict accountings of such a nature would be very hard to have any amount of clarity or consistency as it's really a judgment call. Secondly, child support is not negotiable unless both people decide it is. To try and equalize and standardize child support throughout CA, the legislature created an algabraic equation, and the only factors usually considered are custodial percentage and each person's income. And bang! a number comes out of the state approved software to run such calculations and the court is required to set support at that number. The amount is usually spaced out over twelve months, so that means that a payor spouse can end up paying even when they are with the kids.

The only way to avoid all these legal dicates on a family's monentary settlement is to agree to it in a mediation settling. And even then child support agreements can never be made unmodifiable, because the legislature wanted to make sure that a child never suffered due to a parents' contractual decision.

Child Support for hetereosexual domestic partnership?

April 2006

Is anyone familiar with hetereosexual domestic partnership, or an online site with good info? I have heard that the rights granted to straight couples are fewer than those to gay couples. My child's father and I have a dom.prtship, registered in SF (where he works), but now we're not living together. We don't want to dissolve it bc we may live together again in the future. Am I single? I am seeking monetary assistance for childcare. thanks. C.

In California child support is a right that belongs to the child and the laws regarding payment of child support and custody are not different for married or non-married parents. Any parent can go to the local child support offices for free assistance in establishing child support, including payment for child care related to work or school, and if the parents are not married, the deparment will usually start by filing a petition to establish parentage. For the person asking about heterosexual domestic partnerships - in California there is no such thing as being a registered domestic partner for a heterosexual couple unless at least one of the parties is at least 62 yrs of age and one or both of you must meet the eligibility reqirements for old-age insurance benefits - so if this is not you, then I think you are confused. California has no such thing as a common law marriage either.

Regardless I think you should seek the advice of an attorney and likely file for parentage, an order regarding child support and custody. These proceedings can be done prior to the birth of the child, but as long as the parents are residing together, you are likely to get a joint custody order - so decide what is best for you and your child and then take some action. anon

Can my husband reduce child support payments now that we have 3 kids?

Feb 2006

My husband and I were married in 1999. He has two children from his previous two marriages. One child from each. His daughter from his second marriage, age 14, lives nearby and we're very close to her. She is a wonderful young lady. Her mother (#2 ex-wife) has even become more friendly, calm and we now share a pleasant blended family relationship. The issue is this - when my husband and his 2nd wife divorced - the divorce agreement was based on his salary at the time. Now, almost seven years later, he still has the same salary but we now have three small children (ages 3 and under). As many of you know, it is difficult to live in the East Bay (cost of housing) not to mention having small children (childcare, diapers, you name it). My husband still has the same salary but now has three new depenpents. Should the amount of child support for 14 year old be amended? I don't want to sound like the selfish step-mother but it's a lot of money and we're barely making it each month. Plus, #2 ex-wife keeps asking us for additional money (class trips, drama camps, additional dental needs, etc.). As a part of the divorce agreement, we have a seperate life insurance for 14 year old, cover her on our medical insurance and we share most of the ''normal'' things that may come up.

Is it appropriate or even a consideration when your family gets larger - in terms of your financial obligations? If the pie is only so big and now needs to be divided into more pieces (children), shouldn't the amount of money spent on one child be consistent with the other children? Shouldn't #2 ex-wife be using the child support payments to pay for additional things and saving for her daughter's education? We don't just have one child - we have five children (all included) to think about. #2 ex-wife only thinks of her daughther and expects us to pay half of everything. We need some advice?
Thank you, Worried Step Mother

You have my sympathy -- it's so danged frustrating to feel financially strapped all the time, especially when it's affecting your kids.

But I sympathize even more with your step-daughter. She shouldn't have to suffer changes in her standard of living or be obliged to skip field trips or go without dental work just because her father has chosen to remarry & have three more children. Her mom (i.e., the ex-wife) sounds like she tries hard to have a harmonious relationship with you, but when push comes to shove, it is her duty as the mother & primary custodial parent to ensure that your husband meets his previously existing obligations to your stepdaughter.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I've seen far too many sad examples of children from previous marriages getting the shaft -- both financially & emotionally -- when their fathers remarry & start new families.

I guess you'll need to find a way to accept the situation so it doesn't eat away at you & affect your marriage & your nice relationship with the ex-wife & your step-daughter (this is a rare & beautiful thing, I think). Think of how hard it must have been for your step-daughter to watch her parents' marriage fall apart & to see her dad marry someone else & start a whole new family.

I figure that life is tough in the Bay Area & that MANY of us are financially hobbled in some way or another. If it's not child support payments for a spouse's previous marriage, then, it's credit card debt; student loans for a career that didn't pan out; not buying a house back in 1999 when things were still affordable; staying home instead of pursuing our careers; not buying GOOGLE stock back when they went public, etc. etc. Maybe this line of thought could help -- it sometimes has for me.

Good luck, step-mom, I do wish you the best. Lisa

I have to say, I was totally amazed by your question. NO, the support payments should NOT change because of the size of your husband's third family. Of course it is hard to make it in the Bay Area while paying for 5 kids. That should have been considered before you both decided to make three new children. The 14 year old should not have to foot the bill. Amazed

I asked a similar question several years ago. I too am a stepmom of a 14 y.o. and when the ''extra'' expenses came along (braces, soccer camp) we were expected to provide half of those as well. The advice I received was not, let's just say, friendly. Most assumed my husband was trying to get out of his responsibilities, some went so far as to call him ''dead beat''(and he wasn't the one posing the question, I, his wife, was). I simply wanted to figure out what was fair, like you. I'm sure you are feeling overwhelmed (otherwise why would you be writing?) but as you stated yourself, ex#2 only has the one child and expects (you &) your husband to pay half of everything. The fact remains that the 14 y.o. remains half his and therefor IS half his responsibility. His ex wife should not be expected to take less than half of what his financial commitment is because he decided to have more children with you. In fact, it surprises me that he doesn't have to pay MORE over time (to cover the COL increase). In a family that lived a

Imagine that all the kids were yours (as they are all his) and you had to decide which deserved less from you simply because you decided to keep having babies? And by the way, if ex#2 gets married again, your husband is still expected to provided half of everything because the 14 y.o. is still half his daughter.

I think you have a couple of options. 1) talk to the ex about creating more of a ''balance'' if you think she is open to it. 2) find ways to make your own children feel that their lives are not depleted because of the financial obligations you have to their half sister (and never ever talk badly to them about her mom or her--even if you feel it) 3)thank your lucky stars that you only have 4 more years of legal responsiblity--seeing the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes helps (but then again there is college) 4)help your husband find a better paying job. if his financial situation hasn't changed or improved over that many years, it sounds like you may have a bigger problem. You did know he had two kids when you married him right another not ''wicked stepmother''

I would pose your question the other way and see what you think- If wife #2 went on to have more children, should your husband pay MORE money? Your answer, of course, would be ''no way- those aren't his kids!''

Well, your children aren't wife #2s kids and had your husband held the marriage together with wife #2, that 14 year old would be getting 100% of the money rather than 50%.

Welcome to the world of step-families. You chose to marry someone with other kids and financial obligations. You both knew those obligations when you went on to have three more children. You absolutely cannot and should not change those obligations. If the situation were reversed, you would absolutely fight for what your child was entitled to. The only exception here for me would be if your husband was actually making less money, became disabled, etc., then I think that everyone needs to be adjusted financially. Just because you decide to grow your family (or take more vacations, or hire a nanny, or some other unnecessary event.....) is not justification to make an adjustment.

In the big picture, she's 14 and she does have more expenses now. We want her to get a good education and to develop skills that will set her for life. In 4-8 years, she'll be entirely off the family funds (depending on the college expense arrangement). Your little children need a lot less now than you think. I strongly suggest that you look at your own budget and see where you can cut- gymboree/albany village gymnastics (go to the park), kindermusik (free music and singing at the local library), babysitting (join a babysitting coop in your area), etc. Every little bit helps and sends a strong message to your tep-daughter that she matters! I hope you'll Step the right way

Your husband should consult a lawyer. If it's been so many years, and his situation has changed, he may be able to have his payments modified. If I can offer two other comments from my experience, I have been on both sides of this. I was #2 wife and had #2 child; my ex is now with wife and child #3. When ex and I were married we had financial problems and I very much resented paying what seemed like a lot of money to wife and child #1 when we were really struggling. But later when my ex wanted to reduce his child support to my child after his third marriage and child, I have to say I was pretty resentful about that, too. Why should my child suffer because his father continues to have other children? So my first comment is that you knew when you married your husband that he has 2 other kids. How would you feel if you split up and he has another child with another wife and then wants to cut back his payments to your three? I'm not saying you are wrong to be concerned about your finances. Do you really want to rock that boat, especially if you have a good relationship with her? If it's like most child support arrangements, it will end when the child is 18 - that's only 4 more years. Can you hang in there knowing that the end is in sight? My other comment is that you should let your husband deal with this. Don't push him - I did that to my ex re his first wife and it was a mistake. He did not want to lose face with his first wife, yet the more I pestered him about it, he felt he was losing face with me. I know it's hard and I wish you good luck. Been there

I don't think the child support would change unless the father spends more or less time with his 14 yo daughter, or if the mother or father's income changes significantly. Just because YOUR family has changed, the mother of the 14 yo's hasn't. It is totally fair for the mother to ask to split the costs of classes, camps or expenses for their daughter. Child support can go for maintaining a residence that has a room for the child (2-bdrm instead of 1, for instance), extra utlities, and food, clothing, allowance, etc. If your husband has chosen to have so many children he should be prepared to take care of them all finacially until they are at least 18. Wouldn't you want the same if you split up from him? anon-divorced mom

Sure, his family is bigger. But does his daughter suddenly have less needs just because her dad's new family is bigger?

I completely understand your situation, as my step-daughter was 10 when I married my husband, and he always talked about how much more money his ex-wife and her husband made and how ridiculous it was that he had to keep sending child support when he and I were struggling. Then I had my own child. Then we divorced. And I finally saw things with a clear eye. My ex made the choice to have (in his case) 2 children. This made him responsible for 2 children--financially, emotionally, and every other way. If he couldn't meet his responsibilities regarding these children he shouldn't have had them--just because he no longer lived with either one, and could conceivably choose to go on to have more (though he'd be a bit crazy if he did, if you ask me) didn't mean his responsibilities--including his financial responsibilities--were in any way lessened. In fact, in my opinion, they increased, because his children need to know he is a major part of their lives even though he isn't around them all the time any more. Recently, his older child needed a lawyer, and my ex paid for half. He used this expense as a reason for not paying half of my child's medical and school bills, though he still pays child support. He did the right thing, in my opinion, in supporting his daughter, but it is also incumbent upon him to meet his obligations to my child--and how he does so is his problem. He is, for example paying off a $5,000 engagement ring that was returned when his ex-fiancee dumped him. He considers that a priority--obviously, I don't. I imagine you'll get a range of answers, but I would just suggest that you put yourself in the ex-wife's shoes--imagine if you broke up with your husband and he went on to form a new family. Would your children deserve any less from him because he chose to start anew? Good luck. Susan

Yes! The increased number of dependents your husband supports is indeed a very significant factor in calculating child support. California support is calculated using a computer program called 'Dissomaster.' If you're a bit resourceful, you can actually find a copy of it out on the web and download it. All California support orders are calculated using Dissomaster, unless the parties (Mom & Dad) agree to 'non-guideline' support, which can be any reasonable amount you agree to that is more or less than the figure computed by Dissomaster.

The guideline support amount for a supporting parent with five dependent children is significantly lower than the amount would be for two children, which is what I presume your husband had when he ended his second marriage.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Go to Nolo Press and buy (Retired Judge) Rod Duncan's book on child support. It has the answers, and the 'how to' as well. Also, there is a 'family law facilitator' in the family law department of your county superior court. Go see that person and discuss the matter with them once you are up to speed on the process and numbers. The facilitator can help you with the paperwork you need to file in order to amend child support. With the financial burdens you already have, you don't need the added cost of a lawyer. This is not a complicated issue as family law goes - it's all very formulaic. In fact, if you just file the paperwork and fill in the numbers, the court will compute the new number at your hearing, and, if what you said about your husband's income is true and you aren't making $$$ yourself, I can guarantee that your monthly support payment will be reduced considerably. The court will also look kindly upon the responsibility your husband has shown toward his children, especially given his financial challenges in supporting five kids. That will gain him favor if there are any judgment calls to be made.

My commendation to your husband and you for being financially responsible parents and also making your blended family situation work so well. More important than the money is the fact that you don't have conflict in your family situation. This is a MAJOR victory for your kids!! Best of luck. Pappa

I am not in a blended family but my sister is. She has three sons from her first marriage and two in her second. Her ex- husband has two step children in his new marriage and another child on the way. My former brother-in-law makes a pretty hefty child support payment to my sister for his first three children and that has not, should not and will not change because of subsequent children he may have with his new wife.

His financial picture included child support and his new wife knew this when they married. Their decision to have additional children came only when they realized that they could afford to have more given his previous, on-going, obligation to his first three children. As far as whether the expenses go down, I would say, no, they actually go up. My nephews are 15, 11 and 8 respectively. Between basketball, soccer and pee-wee football, tutoring for the one struggling at school, clothes and generally more expensive tastes in everything, suffice it to say it's not cheap to raise teenagers.

Obviously if your husband's ex-wife asks her child's father for more money, then she is not in a position to take less from him. You say that she seems only concerned about her child - and I guess my response to that is, why shouldn't she be. It's great that your relationship is friendly - I'm sure that's the best thing for the children - but I wouldn't expect that friendliness to mean that she should sacrifice for her child to accomodate her ex-husband new children.

I'm not trying to be harsh here. My sister's second marriage is the best thing in the world and my nephews from her second marriage are just as important and loved as those from her first marriage. But I firmly believe that people are responsible financially, emotionally and otherwise for the children that they bring into this world and their responsibility to the first children doesn't diminish as they have more. Maybe you and your husband need to explore ways to increase your income. anonymous

Most people responded that lowering the payments would be a definite NO, since the child's standard of living shouldn't change because her father decided to have more kids. The thing is, had the original family been kept intact and the parents decided to have more kids, the first child's standard of living surely would have been lowered. We are considering private school for our now only-daughter. If we have a second child and I continue working, we will be able to send both kids to private school. But, if we go ahead with our initial romantic notion of having a larger family, it will have to be public schools to everyone and less expensive classes and camps. Why should it be different for a blended family? In my opinion, the father should keep paying for the basic costs, since the ex-wife shouldn't be burdened by his individual decisions, but all the extras should be resonably decided upon based on the increased number of kids in the family. A 14-yo can also contribute by babysitting or doing other work to pay for some of the things that are now beyound her father's budget. Hate to sound crule

People have more children all the time. Are the older kids affected by the arrival of the younger kids? Of course they are. Are the older kids of the same marriage expected to share - attention, money? - Yes. Are the younger kids to be treated as second class citizens deprived of enrichment activities? I think not. It also applies to kids of previous marriages. They must get their child support, be included in the new family, get the benefits of being part of a multiple child family and realize that their younger sibs are entitled to an equal share of the pie. I was in a marriage with his, hers and ours kids. His ex left him, he got visitation at her whim. His dream of having a family and raising his kids was crushed until we married and had a child. His daughter lived the life of a princess. The ex not only got child support despite making more than him, she had her child in all kinds of classes, and bought toys and things and billed my husband for half even though he had no say in whether the money would be spent or not. I ended up supporting our family with nothing left over for classes for my daugther, or camps or after school care. His daughter got video cameras for her birthday, mine got art kits. They went on trips to Europe every year, we couldn't afford to go to the Moneterey Aquarium. His daughter got educational camps after school, mine got a key to the house.

All this based on the idea that she should not have to pay for his decision to have another family (that she was a part of). Nor should she be affected by the addition of children to his family (it was her family too). In the end sadly she paid. We all paid, because the bitterness of the inequity towards my kids and the stress of the financial burden eventually led to divorce. His daughter lost a fun and loving family unit. She lost a place to go where she had her own place, a brother, my constant support of her school work, a sister's friendship and the stability that we provided. All because of the idea that she could not receive $1 less than she had before. New children should not be penalized either. Second ex-wife

Family lawyer skilled in financial investigation for child support calculation

June 2005

I'm pretty sure my ex is underreporting his considerable income and I'm looking for an attorney who is skilled in financial investigation and aggressive as well as being a relatively decent human being. Don't know if I can get all of that in one package but I've been turned off by the few attys I've interviewed so far, who seem competent and high-powered in legal matters but cold and indifferent as people and contemptuous of my child-centered values. I don't expect my lawyer to be my friend but can't imagine working with someone who can't muster some semblance of kindness. Scorned Nurturer

I have used Lori Wallerstein, recommended here, to investigate hidden assets. She left no stone unturned and found things in Europe as well as California. Still don't know how she did it. She is also an attorney but focuses only on investigations and business advising. She is at One Embarcadero is SF at 415-773- 2821. She is very easy to talk to and empathetic. Pretty funny too. She would probably help you find a lawyer you can work with. Good luck

Child support from a self-employed person

May 2005

Hi, I have been separated from the father of my 2-yr-old for nearly two years now. He is currently working as a taxi driver in San Francisco. I am getting ready to file legal divorce papers on him. My question is: since he won't give me his salary information (claims he ''doesn't really know'' how much he earns), what is the best source to find the typical taxi driver salary in San Francisco? How will the courts determine a fair salary amount/child support amount? Say the average salary is $36,000 -- do I put that down on the papers? Also, any advice about getting child support from a self-employed person in general? I feel like this guy will try to pay as little as possible.

Hi - I actually know something about this (not self-employed per se, but in general). My partner was unemployed (by choice for a while and then found it difficult to find work) while he was going through a divorce. Since he had worked before and had a salary history, the court imputed an income according to what he could reasonably expect to earn - to get the number, he had to go to a career counselor-type expert who interviewed him and came up with an expected salary. His child support was based on this until he found work again. In your ex's case, I would assume that much of his income will be/could be unreported (like waitressing?). I think that the court will know this, but they have to make a decision based on the facts as presented - NOT on ''justice''. I would highly recommend starting to gather a wealth of information showing a series of expected salaries for SF taxi drivers. The more ''official'' or ''reliable'' sources you have, the more likely he will not be able to under-report. Good luck and stay strong! f.

Trying to reach a friendly agreement

Sept 2004

I am a single mom, trying to work out an amicable arrangment with the father of my child. He is coming forward as a father and it is my intention to have things be as friendly as possible for the sake of our child. We do not live together and are not romantically involved. So far we have done alright, but it is trying also. He has little money, and yet I do not want to put the ''state on him'' by way of mandating child support. I would prefer to work this out between us. What I would like to find out is whether anyone out there has gone through this, so that I do not re-invent the wheel here. I am wondering whether we should seek mediation, and if anyone has any suggestions here. Are there free mediators out there, to help us therapeutically work this out, perhaps get access to the software program that the state uses to figure out how much the guy should pay etc. I have tried calling the names of some legal resources given to me. But they all seem expensive to me. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I want to work this out amicably, but I also want to get what I am entitled to. J

I don't have advice regarding the ''how'', as I did my divorce through an attorney. However, I did negotiate with my ex on the child support, agreeing to ~300 less / month than my entitlement, just to keep the peace. He makes more money than I by quite a bit (I'm a grad student) but is terrible with his finances. When he started getting angry, I decided it was better to have a relaxed, amicable relationship with him than the extra money. This has worked really well for us even though I struggle more financially. After all, the money isn't what life is all about, and we now enjoy a very peaceful, relaxed relationship where money isn't really discussed. One thing my attorney told me was that the court system doesn't like to award less than the state guidelines, and typically won't unless both part! ies work together on the marital settlement agreement. Anyway, its one option that you might think about. kristen

2003 & Earlier

Should I seek child support from boyfriend who started out as sperm donor?

March 2003

I've finally gotten up the nerve to put my question and my situation out there, thanks to the example of many of you who have trusted in the wonderful community of people found at this site.

I am a single parent by choice of a wonderful 3 year old. At 38 years old I was not in a relationship but knew I wanted to have a child before I was 40. I turned 40 2 weeks after my baby was born. While I was thinking of going to a sperm bank I became reacquainted with someone I had been seeing in the community over the years. We went out a few times and I expressed my desire to get pregnant and he offered himself as a donor. I of course thought that was terrific and my only stipulation was that he have a relationship with my child so that he/she knows that he/she was purposefully and joyfully brought into this world.

After we got involved he told me that he was living with a woman he had bought his house with and that she wanted to have a child so he helped her and that they are just friends. I assumed this to be true since I was calling there everyday and the woman didn't seem to mind. Obviously I must have been a little concerned or I would have asked her up front. He said my worries were silly and that it would be better not to push the matter with her because she was an edgy person and would rather not know. In retrospect I think I was so excited about having my baby that I wanted to believe anything.

As we continued on the path to pregnancy we became quite involved with each other and ''fell in love'', my interpretation obviously. He then notified me that he was married but did not want to tell me for fear that I would leave him. He said that they do do their own thing and are going to get divorced. I said that he must inform her of our plan, which he did. Then he presented me with a letter I should sign, from his wife stating that I would not ask for any financial assistance. This of course was confusing since we had a verbal understanding of our agreement and I believed that we were in love anyway and he was getting a divorce, so I didn't sign it. Then I got pregnant which should have been so exciting and wonderful, but I was definitely confused.

Now 3+ years later he has briefly appeared at holidays and birthdays. He continues to say that he's working things out with his wife so he can have an open relationship with my daughter. I've kind of hung back hoping this to be true and not wanting to sour the possibilities of a relationship. It's pretty clear that this won't happen since he deliberately avoids us in the street and has flatly denied knowing who my daughter is to friends who have spoken to him in his work place.

My question is, what do I do next? Many people have advised me to seek child support from him since he broke his end of the deal. I'm not sure what all that would entail and what it would look like in years to come. A year or so ago I tried to make contact with his wife by phone and by letter. My thought was that we are both mothers with daughters who will likely meet and we may as well let the details of the past go and do what is best for our daughters. I was not planning to harm their relationship or divulge any more information other than the initial agreement I had made with her husband. She wanted nothing to do with that and said so very clearly. She too ignores and avoids me in the community.

This has been one of the most painful things I've had to live through but I know I can manage. It is my daughter's welfare that concerns me. I'm told that if I don't act now on the child support question it is more difficult to do later. I really don't know what to do because I cannot imagine the negative or positive possibilities in the future. I would so appreciate any opinions people would like to share.

My advice would be to avoid an ugly scene and forgo the child support. You are probably legally entitled, but so what? Is it really worth it? Because it could get very nasty, and why put yourself, and anyone else involved, through that? I would suggest that your emotional well-being (and that of your daughter) are more important than the money. But, I'm also puzzled, because you didn't specifically say that the two of you had any agreement about financial assistance. Although you mention a ''verbal agreement'' you don't indicate that that agreement was anything other than your initially mentioned ''only stipulation'' that he maintain contact with your daughter. If that was the only agreement, then why would you go after him for money anyway? The way you wrote your question, it sounded as if people were suggesting to you that you go after him for money because he broke his promise about maintaining contact with your daughter. If this is, indeed, the reason for their suggestion, then what these people are advising is that you engage in vengeful, vindictive behavior. Is that really where you want to go, emotionally, etc.? I can't imagine that taking on that kind of thing could be good for you, so if this is at all an accurate picture, I say ignore their advice and move on with your life. Anon

I conceived my son on my own via artificial insemination many years ago, in part to avoid an emotionally entangled situation developing along the lines of what you are experiencing. My advice is to just go it alone and not have much to do with these people. You can inform your child's father about birthdays and other special events (band concerts, soccer tournaments) he might want to attend, but leave it at that. It is tough to go it alone financially, but would make for a cleaner break and would probably give you more peace of mind in the long run. It is possible as your child grows older the father will want to become more involved and supportive, including financially, but it's a mistake to force the issue. He seems to be the type who likes to tell people what they want to hear, or what will produce the most comfort for him at the time, not what the reality is. I can't really blame his wife, as he has obviously been lying to her for years as well. Good luck. Dianna

I am also a single mother by choice of a three year girl, born a few months before I turned 40! I did go through a sperm bank to avoid any paternity issues. My bank has known donors, so my daughter can meet her ''father'' anytime (we haven't yet) and have relationships with her 2 half -sisters (whom we do see every few months). I personally DO NOT think you should seek child support. This was not your original intent, and if you go to court, you may put your child at risk for shared custody. I don't think giving up sole control over the decisions you make for your child is worth any amount of money. This guy sounds like bad news, and if I were you, I'd end the romantic relationship. I do think you should keep things cordial for your daughter's sake, and I think it's really important for you to figure out what kind of relationship you want this man to have to your daughter. It would be very hurtful to her to have him deny his relationship in front of her. And, what are you telling her now? (E.g., ''I always wanted to have a baby, and Ed helped me make you. He's your father, but it's not the same as having a daddy who lives with us.'') Best wishes. --Glad I didn't go there...

Well, first of all I am sure you are aware that you went down the wrong path on this one. So now you need to just deal with looking out for the best interest of your child. The best thing is for you to do is file for child support. Even if you don't feel comfortable doing so. It is your child's right to that money. Even if you just put it in an account and save it for a rainy day, her college fund, or take yearly trips with your child. Don't let him off the hook in that way. You can't make him be a stable present father, but you can have get a stable income to help pay for that child's needs and wants. Also, if he can't commit to being consistent, then keep her away from him. It will only confuse her more. And when she is old enough to understand, explain to her that you made a mistake, but you are there to give her as much as you can in regards to love and guidance. Remember don't dwell too much on your mistakes, because that is too late, but you must concentrate! on the well-being of your child. anonymous

I am going to be totally blunt about this because I can see through your self deception. You initially wanted a sperm donor and you got one. End of story. You may believe that you were/are in love and that there is the possibility of a relationship, but from the outside, the signs are not very encouraging. About child support, I think you have an uphill battle since the original arrangement was for a sperm donor. My recommendation is that you move on with your life with your daughter and not place a lot of hope on this ''relationship'' or ''father.'' Telling it like it is

Gosh, what a difficult situation you are in. But the solution seems clear to me. Drop the man and sue him for child support. You and your daughter are better off without him and the stress he is causing. But he must be held financially responsible! anon

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. It is certainly not an easy one to deal with on so many levels. It sounds as if you have a loving relationship with your daughter, however, which I am sure provides some degree of comfort to the disappointment you feel with her father (that reprehensible heel!). My brother fathered a child out of wedlock with a woman 13 years ago. He was unaware of it for several years as the mother moved out of state and never told him she was pregnant. You can imagine his surprise when five years later he was summoned for a paternity test which proved him the father. While the pregnancy was unplanned and sort of a one night stand thing, he was required to pay child support by the state. They actually put a lien on his salary to do it. Fortunately, my brother has a good heart and a decent conscience, so he has been able to establish a good relationship with his daughter now, but that was a decision between the two of them. The fact remains that he was legally required to pay child support, even though it was years later.

I do not know California laws, so you should definitely consult an attorney. Also, let the attorney do the talking, be the liaison. You've been through enough already and even though your heart is involved, this is business and for your daughter's sake, she should get the level of financial support she is entitled. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with accepting it. This is about your daughter's interests, not her father's. He should have understood his liability ahead of time. Once you are awarded the support, the state will help collect so that you needn't have any contact with the father or his wife.

Best of luck to you. Your heart is in the right place and I am so sorry it is broken. Your daughter will bring you the joy you deserve. I just hope you act soon and get the financial support from a deadbeat dad and a real cad. Seen it before

Do you want child support? Do you want your child to have a relationship with this man? My advice is for you and the father to get together with a mediator to work these issues out. It is probably in your daughter's best interest to at least have child support, if not a relationship with this man. Anon

My story is VERY similar to yours. I suspect you will get lots of differing opinions - I know I have from my friends and family. I can't tell you what you should do, but I will explain some of my thinking.

Regarding child support: Child support isn't suppose to be about you, your needs, the fathers intentions, or even your financial situation. The money is for your child. The courts might even say you are being neglegent to deny her financial assistance. However, I too have neither requested nor gotten any money from my child's father. Probably too complicated to type here, but I feel first, if he WANTED to contribute he would. Secondly, his wife thinks he IS sending money. (she thinks he's a better man than he has proven to be). There's a situation I want to stay out of - both HER interpretation and THEIR relationship. Third, my child and I are doing fine financial while he is struggling. Would getting support hamper our (all of us) relationship? And most importantly, he currently has little or no say in how I raise our child. If I accepted money, I would feel I was relinquishing some control over those decisions.

Most people will probably tell you to get child support. But I can only suggest that you again look at the reasons you're considering it now. Do you want to punish the father? Do you want to put money away for your daughers college fund? Are you concerned about mounting costs? What will be the result on you, your child, and the father? Regarding what is best for you and your child: I too wish I knew what damage / benefit the tenuous relationship with my child's father will have on all of us in the future (near and far). Go with what you think is right. Best wishes, anon

It sounds like he is a liar and it is very hard to trust someone who has been so dishonest.

Is this someone you really want in your child's life - especially when they don't seem interested in being involved? I say go for the child support and move onto either a wonderful life w/ your kid, or a wonderful life w/ your kid and someone who loves you truly!

I say this w/ compassion because I have been lied to as well and sometimes it is hard to see out of the situation when you are in the middle of it. It sounds like you are a deeply loving mother and have been bamboozled. I would be highly skeptical of any other intentions that come out of this person's mouth and create a safe, loving environment for your kids that doesn't include lies, deception and rejection. w/ love and courage! been bamboozled too...

I vote for suing for child support. This married man knowingly and willfully fathered a child with you, and now is not acknowledging her publicly. He has not left his wife because he doesn't want to, its been several years- if he were in love with you, he would have. I personally have known a few men in the workplace who have said their marriage was open, or over but they were just co-habitating, when I knew the wife thought things were peachy (and once lived with a man like this too- so I know how you can get sucked into these things). Loyalty to his wife did not prevent him from making promises to you, so it's definitely not sufficient reason for him to stay with her now. I think this is a man that wants more than one woman to be competing for him, to feel desirable. Lord knows why his wife hasn't thrown him out since she knows about you, but we don't know what lies he's said to her- and women can get sucked into wanting to win (a la ''The Bachelor''), even if the prize is keeping your cheating husband. Demanding support will not pollute his relationship with your daughter one wit- either he will see his responsibility to her or not- but it may drive a wedge further between you. She deserves that support from a father who intentionally helped conceive her- use it for her education, etc. If he doesn't come through in any other way, at least she will have that. And never, never regret the gift you gave yourself of a daughter! Just my .02. Anon

My advice is to separate yourself and your daughter from this schmuck as soon as possible. As you say, he's a liar and that's not likely to change. Why maintain this relationship at all? Maybe keep in light contact with this guy so that if/when your daughter wants to develop a relationship with him, she has that choice. Otherwise, I wouldn't pursue child support. With child support comes the possibility of shared custody. Do you want to trust your child with a man who lied about a basic fundamental relationship? He's using you, and you and your daughter are only going to get hurt in the process. Find a way to make it on your own and rid yourself, as much as possible, from this untrustworthy man. Good luck anon

Your child has a RIGHT to be financially supported by her sperm donor. You may as well admit to yourself that you will have no relationship with him in the future that is any ''better'' than what you have today. From the information you've provided, it does not appear that he will ever come around and acknowledge his role in this mess. Regardless of how you feel, you MUST do everything within your legal rights to procure financial support for your daughter, the REAL victim in this debacle. anon

To an outside person, the answer seems fairly obvious...DUMP HIM and get on with your life in a realistic fashion. You used him for his sperm - leave it at that. If you had gone to an actual sperm bank as you were originally palnning, you would not be expecting any child support, or a loving partner etc. - so why now?

If he is already denying you and his daughter out there in the community then please don't wear rose colored blinkers about the wonderful loving relationship your daughter is going to have with her 'father'. Its not going to happen. I apologise if I sound harsh, but it seems that you are deep in the situation and to an outsider the reality of your situation seems fairly cut and dried. And move from the area if you seem to be bumping into him and his wife everywhere. cb

My husband's ex wants more child support - they never married

May 2003

I have a twelve year-old stepdaughter who's mother wants more money in addition to the child support we give. My husband and her mother were never married so they don't have any legal arrangement beyond what they agreed to when she was an infant. My husband and I have been together for 11 of those 12 years and I have pretty much handled the finances the entire time. I have voluntarily increased the amount every January to accomodate the cost of living (4% and I round up if it's a weird amount). My question is, what does the child support cover? She is now asking for more money for my stepdaughter to play in Soccer and go to a camp this summer. Isn't that included? She lives in an area where the cost of living is much less than it is here and she has few expenses herself--she inherited the family business when her dad passed away, she doesn't pay a mortgage b/c her home was ''given'' to her by her parents, etc....I am wrong to think she is getting a little greedy? Comparably, my husband and I, who have a toddler that I stay at home with, don't have the same advantages that I think she I don't think she should be asking for more....but if I am wrong, I'd like to know....any advice would be greatly appreciated....

wicked stepmother???

Child support is based on a percentage of gross income and it does not matter if one has been married. I do not know the exact percentage, but you can find it on any website pertaining to California Law/Child Support. If she wanted to hire an attorney and seek higher support, she could. So, you may want to find out the amount that you should or would be paying, based on the law, and then decide if you want to voluntarily give more money or if you want to make it a legal issue in which all assets and debts would have to be given from both sides. When a parent receives child support, they can do what ever they like with the funds whether it benefits the child or not. anony

This question of whether you are paying ''enough'' is really impossible to answer without actually knowing the amount your husband pays in child support and the amount he and the mother earn. I obviously wouldn't expect you to post this information here, but that is how chlid support gets set. I do think it's been very admirable of you to increase the amount every year to cover increased costs of living.

However, you say that ''because they were never married, no legal child support was ever set''. The two don't go together. Legal chlid support can be set for children born outside of marriage. This *might* help you get a sense of what is fair, or at least what is typical. Another question that might get settled by a court agreement might include the issue of paying for college, if applicable, and paying for medical expenses, health insurance. If the girl's mother is self-employed, she might be paying a great deal for health insurance for the child that your husband might actually be able to get free from work. Thoughts to consider... Sabrina

(1) A father who can afford a stay-at-home wife for one of his children would be pretty inequitable if he refuses to pay for soccer camp for his other child.

(2) The fact that two parents were never legally married matters not an iota to your stepdaughter's legal right to a share of the incomes of both her parents. anon

Just a couple of comments about the ''wicked stepmother??'' post. One, the legal issues are exactly the same whether your daughter's father was married to the mother of the child, or not. The child support laws are exactly the same. Two, I think you should consult a lawyer (or one of the software packages) to find out exactly what the ''guideline amount'' for your stepdaughter's child support would be. I think you will be very surprised, and my guess is that since the two parties came up with the formula/amount on their own, your husband is paying nowhere near what the guidelines would have him pay if it ends up in court. The law is very much on ''the side'' of the child. You didn't specify how much of the time (if any) your husband has his daughter; if it is in fact ''none'', the amount he pays is going to be quite high, since this is factored into the formula. Both you and she should seek legal advice before mediating it on your own, so you have some idea what the courts would say. been there

You could go to Nolo Press (I think it's on Ninth Street, maybe at Carleton, in Berkeley) and get their book on how to calculate child support in California. When my ex and I used it 4 years ago, it came with a computer program that you could just plug earnings and custody data into, and it calculated the amount the courts would have come up with. Apparently there's a set formula of some sort for California. You might have to do some guessing about the mom's income, though, unless she's willing to cooperate. I can't remember if expenses were even considered, though I don't think so. anon

Legal guidelines about how to calcualte child support are very clear. I suggest you contact a family attorney and find out what they are, rather than trying to figure out how much your stepdaughter's mom really ''needs.'' This is bound to get sticky and lead to bad feelings. Your description of your situation sounds identical to my own, with a somewhat younger stepson. My husband has FINALLY gone to court to get all of the agreements ''official''-- money, custody and visitation, and it is taking a huge load of our minds. It has also stopped the guesswork and petty judgements on my part (about for example how expensive a car my stepson's mother just purchased!). anon

Free Online child support calculator The program actually used in court is called Dissomaster, and it factors in a number of complications the online calculator ignores. For MOST cases, the online calculator will get pretty close.

IF you decide NOT to go to court, but to indpendently craft a written agreement both parents sign, using the results of the calculator would be a good start. But such a document would have zero standing if the legal system DID get invoked at a later date.

The best predictor of succes for children of divorce is low levels of parental conflict; some form of clear, unambiguous agreement about money will keep conflict from obscuring the love and support both parents give the child, if no longer to each other. Ryan

As other folks said, a Nolo Press book will probably be enlightening about how child support is set. But here are some basic facts.

There is a computer program called ''Dissomaster'' that runs through an extremely complex formula used in California; this computer program is used universally for setting child support, and judges use it too. The Dissomaster program has you fill out certain information, and then kicks out a print-out of what child support should be. Almost all of the time the court adopts that number, unless there are unusual circs. The key numbers that are plugged into the Dissomaster include each parent's earned income, unearned income (income from investments or trusts), and percentage of time spent with child. There are other possibilities built into the program such as other children (e.g., there is room to acknowledge your husband has another child with expenses) or medical costs (e.g., if your stepdaghter is getting orthodonture or other treatment on a regular basis). It's quite easy to get an estimate if you use a simplified version of this program from Nolo Press, or go into a lawyer for a consultation and have the information. The formula does not look at hard assets (though a judge will note if someone is sitting on $1 million, for example); does not care if the parents have been married; does not care that you are a stay-at-home mom (which is fine); and there is no requirement that either parent pay child support beyond when the child turns 18 or finishes high school (whichever is later). There is no legal obligation in Cal to pay for college. In addition to the basic child support formula, the court also looks at figures for what are called ''add-ons.'' This typically means the cost of health insurance, uncovered medical treatment, and after-school, child care or camp costs for the child. These often get split 50-50 by the parents but can be adjusted. Just wanted to let you know there's usually more out there in addition to basic child support.

Child support is taken very seriously by the courts, and they don't like to see parents paying less than the formula. So you may want to check it out. It's great you're thinking about it. A Former Family Law Lawyer

Student seeking child support fears welfare fraud repurcussions


I need help with how to handle a situation I got into while pregnant with my daugther. When I found out I was pregnant the father of my child told me that he would stand by me as long as I agreed to go on welfare but not include his name on the paperwork. Being a starving student and feeling that I didn't have a tremendous amount of choices agreed to do it, thinking that atleast my daughter would have her father there. Then when she was born I did not add put his name on the birth certificate because he asked me not to since he thought that welfare would catch up with him. I understand that I must seem to be the stupidest person alive for doing this but for some reason I trusted him. Now, as I am still trying to get through school, and am no longer in a relationship with the father I am facing the situation of trying to get child support out of him. I am afraid to go to court because of repercussions of welfare fraud, and he knows this so he's playing it against me. I do get some money from him but not always on a regular basis.

I realize that I was stupid and wrong for doing this, but as I struggle to finish my education and raise my daughter I am deathly afraid of what could happen to me if I were to come forth with the truth. I'm at a loss for what to do, or where I should turn and would appreciate any help that someone could give me.

I think the simple answer is: talk to an attorney who specializes in child support issues (what you say to them is confidential if you are their client).

It is entirely possible that you'll discover that there are no consequences to you for your failure to list your daughter's father. Think about it: most child support laws are intended to ensure that fathers pay their child support (that's in the interests of the child). Treating you as a criminal in this situation defeats that purpose. While the application of law isn't always sane, the general thrust here suggests you're unlikely to have trouble. (The father, on the other hand, is likely in for a bad time).

I would also expect that leaving the father's name off the birth certificate is a non-issue these days -- DNA is often used to establish paternity.

So go to an attorney and find out the real story. (Note, attorneys aren't always expensive. I know Stanford had free legal help for students when I was there. I don't know what the UC resources are but are presumably some).

To the person enquiring about child support and welfare issues: My advice (I am an attorney supervising a legal clinic on these family law issues, but am in Washington DC now so can't help directly) is to get professional help quickly. There are a number of no cost options for finding someone to help you. Call the Volunteer Legal Services Program in San Francisco, as well as the American Bar Association. Assuming you meet their income cutoffs, (and it sounds like you do) they can either help you directly (VLSP) or direct you to someone who can. If that doesn't work, Boalt (UCB's law school) may have a legal clinic that can help. But I would start by calling any of these organizations and they will get you going. Child Support combined with welfare is complicated, but you are by far not the first person to be in this situation, and there are many things that can be done. Good luck.

The Community Law Center in Oakland (recently affiliated with Alameda County Legal Aid) ph: 836-1247 provides legal representation in Family Law actions on a sliding scale. A confidential consultation with them might be enough to find out whether you are actually at risk in regard to the welfare issue. If you're not at risk, (or even if you are), you may want to contact the Alameda Co. D.A.'s office. They'll find the father, and garnish his wages for both past due and current child support without any charge for attorney's fees to you. First priority for the DA is to obtain for your child the current support that is due. You will also want to discuss with the Community Law Center lawyers other related issues that may attend these proceedings - like visitation and custody. The DA does not handle those matters.

Custody & Support agreements between unmarried parents

Oct 2001

I am a single (never married) mother of an 8- month old boy. The baby's father shares direct expenses (we split costs of baby gear, diapers, doctor visits, etc.) but pays no child support for maintaining the household (I have never asked for it). I have sole custody, but the father helps out a lot with babysitting (spending about 30 hours per week with the baby). Up until now, the arrangement has been amicable and informal. However, the situation has changed, and I am considering trying to work out a more formal arrangement for visitation and child support. Does anyone have advice? The father has a low income but owns a condo. I am finishing my Ph.D., renting an apartment and living on student loans. Does the fact that we never married factor into this? With both of us having low incomes, can the father be required to pay child support? If I can not afford to live in the Bay Area on my income (which is likely even after I finish my Ph.D.), will I face any restrictions on moving out of state? (I am seeking information only on legal issues, not on the moral/emotional issue of separating the baby from his father).

I'm in a similar situation, and I suggest you contact the Alameda County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (510) 893-8683 or You can meet with a lawyer for $25 (30 minute visit) and you can probably get some of your questions answered. I was very happy with the meeting that I had because the lawyer answered my immediate questions and then told me what other services she could offer for a fee.

It all depends, of course. :^) I have some experience with the system--my husband has a daughter by a previous relationship, never married, and I have a friend who is a single mom with a son from a relationship in which they never married. Regarding the feasibility of getting child support--it depends on your relative incomes and percentage of time with the child. You'll probably need to fill out a detailed income/expense form, and have him do the same. Then you need to have someone calculate the child support using the computer program they have for this (we had a lawyer do it, but I think there are other ways). It's very complex and depends on many factors (for instance, if your husband is married, 15% of his WIFE's income is counted as his income!). With him spending as much time as he does with the child, it will weaken your child support position, but there's still a big discrepancy since the child lives with you, so there may still be room for some child support to be owed to you. The fact that you never married pretty much has nothing to do with any of this, as long as he's listed as the father on the birth certificate. If not, and he tries to weasel out of it (sounds unlikely from your description), there'd need to be blood tests to prove paternity, at which point he'd be legally responsible for the child for 18 years (and of course morally responsible forever!). The courts take a dim view of moving away from the other parent, though as the biological mom you would have a much easier time doing it than he would (there's still a bias in favor of placing kids with the mom when the kids are of tender years, i.e., under 5). But he definitely could fight you on it. Conversely, if you are unable to support yourself and your child, and you choose to go on public assistance, then the COURTS will step in and ORDER that he pays child support. The nice thing for you about going that route is that the money he owes will go to the government, and then they will pay you. And they will pay you whether or not he pays them. They will keep VERY detailed records of just how much he owes in back child support payments, WITH INTEREST. Many single moms find that the non-custodial dads are less than diligent about paying the child support payments if there's not a court involvement. There are ways to collect on it, but sometimes it can take many years. I would recommend that you investigate getting a formal agreement written up, however. My friend failed to do that when her ex was making in excess of $100K a year, and now he has decided to move to Oregon, leave the son behind, and since he doesn't have any money, he's not sending any. If she had had a formal court-ordered payment, he would owe that money anyway, whether or not he chose to take a lower-paying or non-existent job (they'd just stack up the back debt...). It's usually worth the hassle to get it in writing through the legal system. Since she didn't, she's up the proverbial creek, because you can't get blood from a turnip. Good luck with all of your decisions around this!

Regardless if you were married or not, the father still has to pay child support to you and not being married doesn't change the amount that he has to pay or the process in which you goabouyt collecting. And regardless of what he makes, he still has an obligation to his child, even if you make more than him. You can also arrange to still have sole custody giving you the freedom to move if you need to. Alameda County has some information on their website as well as a booklet that you can pick up in the family support office that explains everything in full detail. Contact Boalt School of Law-UC Berkeley because they have students that operate out of a building in North Oakland that can assist you with this process free of charge. I don't rememeber the name of the agency which is why I suggested you call them. Hope this helps.

Call an advice line. There are a lot of groups out there who can give you legal advise (at little or no cost) and it sounds like you need it. They can tell you all the legal ramifications of your situation. Since your baby's father is taking an active role in raising the child and in paying for things the baby (not you) needs, he has a right to expect that the child will continue to be accessible to him and changing that arrangement may cause the problems you are worried about. Since you haven't asked for any other support, your partner may not realise you need it. It's on you to make your needs known to him. All parents are required to support their children, regardless of their financial situation, but the other parent involved isn't always entitled to support. If the relationship is faltering, then you most definately need legal advise.

Child support from non-working parent?

June 2002

Hi there, what happens when the non-costodial parent who should be paying child support has no income? The (natural) mother of my young children has never paid child support and now she is having another baby (she abandoned the first two). We have finally worked out a new visitation aggreement (now that she is back in the country)and i want to file for support but i know she isnt working. Its not so much that i want her money, im more intrested in her being held accountable for her choices and contributing to her children.

I don't have any specific advise, except that the money/support is owed to your CHILDREN. It has nothing to do whether or not you want the money. The children have a right to it. It might not come right away, but at least you will have a record of back support due in case she ever does have money. Helena

If you don't need your ex wife's money, and, as you've said, she doesn't have it, then your seeking support under the circumstances is punitive. Your comments are really very telling when you say that you just want her to be held accountable for her choices. Her choices were abysmal. She has contributed to wrecking a home and wounding lives. But you're not supposed to be raising her. You are her ex-husband and father of the children. There are a host of problems here that are obviously far more pervasive and deeper than child support. For the sake of the children (and that is the only central issue) you and Ex need to work out your post-marriage relationship so that the children are not torn apart by your interactions (to say nothing of the lawyers and the whole legal system). I've lived through this one, as a bewildered new step- mother. The damage that can be done to the kids is pure horror. I know your situation is complicated and I certainly don't have a fraction of the facts. Your role is so very difficult, and it sounds like you are the parent who managed to grow up before having children. Work it out with Ex. That could be just the thing to make her face and deal with her choices (if she isn't already in a full state of grief). Forget punishing her. Set aside anything that isn't for the primary welfare of the children. That's the mantra. Keep reciting it. Tobie