What is Child Support?
Child support payment is money paid from one parent to another to provide financial support after a separation or divorce. It is not intended for the use of the custodial parent but is provided for the child’s living expenses such as shelter, food, clothing, child care, and medical expenses.
In divorce court proceedings, the judge will decide which parent will pay child support to one parent or if both parents will pay. Generally, the custodial parent, or the parent who spends more time with the child, is the one who will receive child support payments. Usually, the non custodial parent shoulders child support because the custodial parent is the one who covers the expenses for the support of the child. Child support payments are determined in a legal process by several factors: the financial situation of the parents if one parent has a high net worth, standard of living of the child before the divorce court order, and domestic relations or parenting time of the parents to the children.
Child support laws and child support cases are fairly complex, and you must follow all state procedures and regulations.
If you are planning to file for a child support case in Orange County, consult with one of our local child support attorneys today.
Duty to Support Minors
According to the law, parents must pay child support until the child turns 18. It is required by Federal law that every child must be taken care of by their parents from the day of conception up to the day they become a legal adult. However, there are a few exceptions. With the best interest of the child in mind, child support obligations may continue until the child is past the age of 18 if ordered by the California court. In some cases, child support guidelines will be followed and continued further if the child has special needs or has not graduated from high school. If the injury or disability is lifelong, then lifelong support may ensue to cover for health care coverage.
On the other hand, the child support agreement could be shorter if the child registers a domestic partnership or marries, joins the military, or otherwise becomes self-supporting. Talk to a child support lawyer to discuss child support law further.
Determining Child Support
When determining a child support order, a uniform guideline is followed to calculate child support – as enforced by the state – that takes the following factors into account:
- The net annual income of both parents
- Amount of time each parent has physical custody of the child
- Other factors subject to discretion under California’s Family Code
California courts use a guideline when calculating child support obligations to minimize the need for litigations and to ensure a fair settlement of the conflict between parents when financial support is ordered to be paid. Such a guideline also exists for two purposes: to provide a standard in the child support and to provide for a minimum level of child support that is enough for a standard of living that is adequate to their development. For these reasons, judges are required by the state law to follow the guideline, with exceptions only in a few and specific situations.
You can try to calculate an estimate of how much child support you have to pay by using the child support calculator through the California Guidelines Calculator.
The court presumes the calculated child support amount by the guideline to be accurate; however, the result can be unfair under certain circumstances. For example, when the child has special medical needs or when parents have different custody time-sharing arrangements for different children, or when parents have joint physical custody but one of the parents has a much lower income or higher housing expenses, the court may order a higher or lower amount of child support payment.
Parents can also voluntarily choose to pay more or in rare cases, choose to pay less, as long as the final amount is approved by the court. In cases where both parents agree with child support that is below the set guideline, the parents must declare that they are fully aware of their rights and not forced into an agreement before it can be approved by the court.
Child support laws may be complex and confusing. If you need assistance with child support calculations, talk to a child support attorney for assistance.
Imputing Income for California Child Support
In California, children should be supported financially by both parents, whether they are married to one another or not. We have stated above that how much a parent should pay for child support is mainly based on their annual income, but a parent couldn’t avoid paying child support by artificially reducing their income. This is because a judge may “impute” income, that is, to credit an income that the parent is supposed to be earning based on their skill, education, and employment history. In other words, the court may enforce an order (garnishment) to collect child support. This is to ensure that the child’s needs are met and to deter parents from neglecting their child.
Three factors are considered to determine whether an income of a parent should be imputed:
- Ability to work
- Opportunity to work
- Willingness to work
In other words, the underlying factor why a parent is unemployed or underemployed will be considered whether to impute income or not.
Collecting Child Support
After a child support order is issued, the obligor (paying parent) must be able to provide the amount designated in the order. Payments can be made in cash, via direct deposit, or even Venmo.
If a parent withholds child support, the court may enforce child support and they may be ordered to pay the owed amount. You may seek assistance from the court to enforce the order and automatic deductions will be made in the parent’s paycheck.
Child Support Modification
While most child support payments are set for long periods, a parent can still ask for a child support adjustment in court.
If a child support order is below the guideline amount, a parent may ask for a modification of child support at any time. The same goes for when the amount set is above the guideline.
You can request to modify child support if there is a significant change in financial status (i.e. when a parent involuntarily loses a job) or in custodial time-share.
Once a parent asks for a modification in child support, the court will consider the financial situation and time of physical custody with the child of both parents.
If you want to know more about changing a child order and child support enforcement, contact a California family law firm today.
How We Can Help
If you or your loved one are seeking legal assistance related to collecting child support, enforcing child support, or modifying child support, we are here to help.
Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at Trevino Law and let us give you legal counsel about child support laws. For inquiries, call 949-716-2102 today.