Child Support

Each parent has the responsibility to provide his or her child’s financial needs. If a child is not receiving support from the non-custodial (the parent the child does not reside with) parent or the custodial (the parent the child resides with) parent believe that support needs to increase, our office can help you. 

If the non-custodial parent feels the current child support order being paid is beyond his or her means, our office may be able to help you as well. California has guidelines on how much a parent should pay, and guideline support is presumed to be correct. However, that does not mean that the parties cannot agree to a different support amount. Also, sometimes courts order a different amount of support depending upon specific factors provided by California law.

Even though both parents have an obligation to pay child support, payment cannot be enforced by a court until there is a support order in place. Either parent can request a judge to create a child support order as part of:

  • Divorce, legal separation or annulment (for married parents or those in a registered domestic partnership);
  • A Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (for unmarried parents);
  • A domestic violence restraining order (whether the parents are married or not); or
  • A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (when there is a voluntary Declaration of Paternity or the parents are married and do not want legal separation or a divorce).

California uses a formula or guideline to determine how much child support each parent should pay. If the parties cannot reach an agreement on the support amounts, a judge will decide the right amount based on the guideline. The guideline calculation is based on many factors, including, but not limited to:

  • How much the parents earn or are capable of earning;
  • How much other income each parent receives;
  • How many children the parties share;
  • How much time each spends with the child;
  • Each parent’s tax filing status;
  • How much support is paid for children from other relationships;
  • Health insurance costs;
  • Union dues;
  • Mandatory retirement contributions;
  • Voluntary 401k contributions;
  • The cost of daycare and uninsured health-care costs; and
  • Other factors.

A child support order mostly requires a party to pay an amount every month to the other parent, but it can also require the parties to share the costs for the following:

  • Childcare so one parent can work or obtain training or schooling to develop or improve work skills;
  • A child’s reasonable health care premium and uninsured costs;
  • Traveling costs for visitation from one parent to another;
  • A child’s educational needs; and
  • Other special needs.

Child support payments are usually ordered until the child turns 18 (or 19 if the child is in high school full time, living at home and cannot support him or herself), and is proportional per child. 

The court determines the time each parent spends with the child by comparing the time that each parent has primary physical custody for the child. What usually happens is support payments decrease as with time the noncustodial parent increases. However, that can depend upon other factors as well.

Even though there might be a current child support order in place, either parent may request a change to the amount support if there is an extreme “change in circumstances” such as

  • His or her income;
  • Tax filing status; or
  • The amount of time that each parent spends with the child.

If a request is made, a judge will make the decision based on current circumstances by again looking into the amount of time the child spends with each parent as well as the current income and expenses of each parent. After this request, child support payments could increase, decrease, or stay the same.