Negotiation is an indispensable part of the legal process, especially in the sphere of family law. However, not all areas are completely open to negotiation. This is especially true in matters involving children — most notably child support. While child support is frequently a matter that must be resolved during the divorce process, the right to support is personal to the child rather than the parent. A parent does not have the authority to waive child support or reduce the other parent’s child support obligation below the level the law considers minimally reasonable.
Like all states, California is required by federal law to maintain a set of guidelines for determining the amount of child support noncustodial parents owe for the care and maintenance of their children. These guidelines take into account the number of children, the incomes of both parents and the percentage of time the child spends with each parent. The results of these guidelines are presumed reasonable and are generally not open to negotiation.
While the guidelines control in most cases, there are, however, some areas where financial decisions regarding the children are still open to negotiation:
Private school tuition
Expenses for extracurricular activities
Funding for postsecondary education
Other extraordinary expenses
These expenses that are above and beyond the typical and necessary costs of childrearing may still be open to negotiation during the divorce process. However, as a custodial parent, it is important to remember that your child has a right to receive basic support from the other parent. This is not something for which you must bargain or negotiate. Likewise, for noncustodial parents, your obligation to pay support is not contingent upon whether you receive visitation or any other aspect of your divorce settlement.