1. Child support ends at age 18.
A parent’s obligation to pay child support does not end at age 18 if, at the time the child turns age 18, he or she is a full time high school student and is living with one of his or her parents. In that circumstance, the parent’s child support obligation will end either when the child graduates from high school or when he or she is 19 years old, whichever occurs first.
2. The court can make my spouse help pay for our children’s college education.
Under existing California law, unless the parties agree otherwise, a trial court has no jurisdiction to order either parent to pay anything to or for the benefit of a child who is 18 years old and has graduated from high school. Regardless of a couple’s financial circumstances, a court cannot order either party to pay for his or her child’s college expenses.
3. If I have custody of my children, I do not have to pay child support.
While this is typically true, there are circumstances where, under the statutory formula for calculating child support, the custodial parent ends up owing child support to the noncustodial parent. Typically, this only occurs if there is a huge disparity in the parties’ incomes in favor of the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent is spending significant time with the children.
4. I only have to disclose an asset if my spouse specifically asks about it.
Under current California law, once a dissolution proceeding has commenced, each spouse has a fiduciary duty to disclose all of his or her assets and debts to the other spouse, even if no formal request for the information is made.
5. I am entitled to something because my spouse was abusive, used drugs, cheated on me, and otherwise wasted the best years of my life.
California is a “no fault” state, and none of these factors can be considered by a trial court when deciding whether or when to terminate marital status or how to divide the community property estate.
6. Student loans are treated like any other community property debt.
By statute, amounts owed on student loans are the sole responsibility of the person who received the benefit of the education. The amount owed on a student loan is not a community property debt and cannot be considered in the division of the community property estate.
7. If my name is not on the credit card or other debt, I don’t owe it, and I am not responsible for paying it.
If a debt was incurred during marriage by either spouse for community purposes, it must, in the division of community property, be considered an obligation of the community property estate. Regardless of whose name the debt is in, the ultimate responsibility for paying it belongs to both parties.
8. If my spouse owes me money, I can offset that amount against the amount I owe him or her for support.
There are very few things a paying spouse or parent can offset against his or her child or spousal support obligation. Even if your former spouse owes you money as a result of your property division, you cannot offset the amount you are owed against your court ordered child or spousal support. In fact, you can be held in contempt of court if you do.
9. I don’t have to give my former spouse information about my new spouse’s income.
Under California law, neither the income of your new spouse nor the new spouse of the other party can be considered when calculating child or spousal support. The idea is that the new spouse did not marry his or her current spouse’s former spouse or children and should have no financial responsibility to them. However, in order for a court to calculate the amount of child or spousal support you should pay or receive, it needs to consider the income taxes each spouse or parent must pay. This cannot be done unless the court knows what both parties and their spouses are making. The bottom line is that you need to disclose your new spouse’s income, and, because of the manner in which support is calculated, the disclosure generally works to your advantage.
10. The retainer I pay my attorney is the only money I will have to pay.
This is almost always untrue. Read your attorney-client fee agreement carefully. Your retainer simply allows you to secure the services of your attorney. Thereafter, you are generally required to pay on a monthly basis the time charges and costs your attorney and members of your legal team incur.