A reader questioned whether I am paying child support for my kids' schooling. The question shows a misunderstand of how child support works.
Most people think that child support involves paying a couple of hundred bucks a months in order to cover basic necessities for the kid. That is not how it works anymore.
In the 1990s, the child support system became more of a taxation and welfare system. If the mom has custody of the kid, and she goes on welfare, then the welfare agency seeks reimbursement from the dad. If she is not on welfare, then she can get paid directly from the dad, based on his income and unrelated to any needs of the kid. To the dad, it is just another income tax. To the mom, it is just like welfare money that she can spend however she wishes. It does not have to be spent on the kid.
In California, if they have two kids, the dad has to pay the mom 40% of his after-tax income. That is called "guideline child support". It is not alimony; if there is alimony then that is in addition. The money is tax-free for the mom.
The family courts are not supposed to even look at costs like housing, clothing, food, schooling, etc. The govt authorities decided that would complicate the welfare system too much. The guidelines are based on a belief that the mom herself should have a standard of living similar to the dad. If the mom wants to just put the money in the bank, that is her privilege.
So I pay 40% of my after-tax income to my ex-wife, tax-free. She has remarried, so she also gets 50% of her husband's pre-tax income. That is California law. All other states also have official child support formulas, but the exact percentages vary from state to state.
So yes, I am paying for schooling and everything else. My ex-wife has the discretion in how to spend it. I also pay property taxes that fund the public schools.
The family court judge is obligated to follow the child support guideline in nearly all cases, under federal law. The federal welfare system requires it. The judge can only deviate from the guideline if the facts prove that there are extraordinary circumstances that would make the guideline unjust.
Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph has deviated from guideline in three ways, based on what he claims are extraordinary circumstances. First, he claims that I could have invested my savings differently, and earned more income. So I have to pay 40% of that income that I am not really making. Second, I have one daughter who takes a lot of dance classes, and he ordered me to pay an extra $250 per month to pay for dance classes. Third, he claims that my house is bigger than it needs to be since the kids moved out, and I have equity in the house, so he ordered me to pay an extra $1062 per month to compensate my ex-wife. I have never figured out the logic to that one. I already got the appeals court to reverse him on this point, but he keeps making me pay it anyway.
So I am actually paying much more than 40% of my after-tax income to my ex-wife. It must be nice for her to have two men who are each paying half their income to her. She is also a lawyer, and can earn a good salary herself. I really do not believe that she is being financially mistreated.