When a child is born or resides in California, the law establishes certain rights and responsibilities to protect the child. Regardless of marital status, all children deserve support and protection from all of their parents.
Child support can be established in California in the following legal situations:
- legal separation
- paternity, also called parentage
- domestic violence restraining orders, and
- petitions filed by a local child support agency (LCSA) to determine paternity.
9 Important California Child Support Factors
Before you become involved in a child support case, here are nine things you should know.
1. All Parents Must Support Their Children. All parents have the legal obligation to support their children. Even if a child spends all their time with one parent, the other parent must support the child. Even if the child does not visit with the non-custodial parent, that parent must still support his or her child.
2. Child Support and Visitation (or Parenting Time) are not interrelated. If one parent withholds visitation from the other parent, the parent whose time has been denied cannot stop paying court-ordered child support. Child support may not be used as a weapon to punish the other parent’s actions.
3. Joint Custody/Parenting May Affect Amount of Child Support Ordered. If the parents have agreed to split physical custody of a child and divide regular living expenses, a parent can petition for an amount that varies from statutory guidelines depending on each parent’s income, parenting time with the child, and other relevant financial contributions.
4. How Support is Calculated. California uses a complicated, state-wide formula that considers each party’s parenting time, regular expenses, and net income available to pay child support. The court will also look at:
- the child’s standard of living before the parents’ split
- whether the child has any special needs
- the custodial parent’s resources
- the number of children involved
- the parents’ taxable implications
- the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay support
- other support received by either parent
- health insurance costs
- mandatory expenses to earn a living such as union dues
- daycare expenses
- non-voluntary expenses like retirement contributions
- uninsured medical expenses, and
- other related factors
5. When Child Support Ends. In general, a parent is legally obligated to pay child support in California until the child turns 18 years old. However, if the child is still in high school, living at home, and is not self-supporting at age18, support will continue until the child’s 19th birthday or graduation from high school, whichever occurs first.
Children with special needs may require additional support, depending on their specific circumstances. Also, support may end before the child turns 18 if they get married, enter the military, are legally emancipated, or are adopted by another person.
6. Child Support is Modifiable. Parents can agree to modify child support but there must be a new court order approved by a family court judge. Your child support attorney can petition the court for a modification if there has been a substantial change of circumstances. Some circumstances that might justify a modification include loss of employment, change in income, or a change in the time spent with the child.
7. Repercussions For Non-Payment of Support. Failing to pay court-ordered support is a serious matter. The court can punish a parent who fails to abide by their support obligations. For example, the court can garnish wages, seize tax refunds, add 10% interest to any unpaid amount, withhold certain benefits, take the non-payer’s driver’s license or professional license, or even sentence the violator to jail time. The local District Attorney is empowered by law to enforce child support orders.
8. Parents Cannot Waive Child Support. Under California law, the obligation to pay child support is the child’s right and parents cannot waive this right except under specific circumstances and only with court approval. The judge must determine if any coercion is involved, the child’s needs will be met, neither party is relying upon public assistance, and if the waiver is in the child’s best interests.
9. An Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Save You Money. Family lawyers understand specific child support rules, how to calculate support, and when your circumstances might warrant a modification. Since child support can continue for many years, it’s important to accurately set support early and avoid overpayment or underpayment problems that can add up over time.
Attorneys Deirdre Kingsbury and Noreen Evans understand the legal intricacies involved in dissolving family relationships. If you have children, they can answer all of your child support questions. They can also vigorously advocate your position, if necessary to protect your rights and your child’s financial future. At Evans Kingsbury LLP we are family lawyers with decades of trial and negotiation experience. Call us today at (707) 596-6090 or fill out our easy contact form to discuss your case.