The Basics of California Child Support

Regardless of who your child lives with, both parents must provide for each child financially in some form, and oftentimes the parent who no longer lives with the child contributes in the form of child support. It can be a complex topic, but the basics of California child support are easy to understand.

Child support refers to the amount a parent pays toward a child’s living expenses; a child support order could come into effect if married parents divorce, if unmarried parents separate, or if the parents were never in a relationship at all. If you’re looking for counsel geared towards your specific situation, a child support attorney can provide the best advice.

Child Support Amounts: How Much Should You Expect?

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) collects child support payments and files papers for parents once a child support case has been opened. But how much is child support in California?

The courts have a set formula for working out the amount of child support, with various factors that feed into this formula to ensure all parents are treated equitably. Some parents may want to set their own child support amounts; this is fine, but the courts must sign off and make sure that the terms will meet the needs of the child. 

In cases where parents cannot agree on the amount for child support, the courts will step in and decide for them. Parents can get an idea of the potential costs by using the child support calculator; this calculator follows the same guidelines used within the courts in California.

What If One Parent Is Unemployed?

If the parent who is supposed to pay child support payments has no income, how can they be expected to pay what they don’t have? The already complex situation surrounding child support is made more difficult when some parents purposefully remain unemployed so they can avoid paying child support payments.

However, the courts may investigate and decide that the unemployed parent has the opportunity or ability to find paying work and may adjust a child support order accordingly. Even though the parent might technically be without an income, they will still be ordered to pay child support based on what they could potentially earn.

When Does Child Support End?

Most parents who pay child support will continue with payments until the child is 18 years old and graduates from high school. This may change if the child remains in school until they are 19, in which case the payments would continue until the child completed 12th grade. If a child marries or enters military service before their 18th birthday, their child support order would end at this point.

Can Parents Arrange Their Own Child Support?

This is possible, but to make it legally binding, the court must receive the agreement and complete a full review prior to approval. Any child support agreement must meet the following criteria and include the following agreements:

  • Both parents understand their rights
  • Both parents enter into the agreement willingly
  • The agreement meets the child’s needs
  • The agreement was created with the child’s best interests in mind
  • Neither parent is currently receiving public assistance

Failure to include any of these points could lead to delays or cause the court to reject the child support agreement. 

Regardless of the route you choose, it’s in everyone’s best interest, both parents and children, to speak to a qualified child support attorney for the best advice on claiming child support in California. 

Contact Monarch Family Law for more information on these basics of California child support to ensure that your child receives the financial support they need.