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Child Support: What You Need to Know

Posted by Caroline D. Ham | May 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

Child Support: What You Need to Know

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently warned that one-fourth of California workers could lose their jobs due to coronavirus shutdowns. With an unemployment rate that has skyrocketed, the unemployment numbers in California will be higher than 20%. Over 4.5 million people have filed for unemployment in California since the middle of March when state and local governments began to impose shutdowns.

With unemployment rates rising every day, many parents are concerned about how they will pay child support or whether they will receive child support. Understanding what child support is in California and what you need to know about child support can be helpful during these uncertain times. 

What is Child Support in California?

In California, child support is the amount of money that a court can order one or both parents to pay for the expense of raising a child or children. When a California court orders parents to pay child support, they will need to pay child support once every month. 

California's Mandatory State-Wide Child Support Formula

California uses a mandatory state-wide child support formula that takes the following into account:

  • The income of the parents
  • How much time each child spends with each parent
  • Other discretionary factors

California's child support formula is designed to award child support that reflects the standard of living of both parents. Child support can improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children involved. 

How Does a Judge Determine When Child Support is Necessary?

Both parents must financially support their children in California. California courts will make a child support order based on the income levels of both parents and the amount of time each parent physically spends with the children. When it comes to child custody issues, each parent must complete an Income and Expense Declaration. When filling out this Declaration, keep in mind that you are under penalty of perjury. Parents will need to provide proof of their income levels. 

How do Judges Determine the Amount of Child Support is Needed?

How do courts decide how much money both parents, or one parent, must pay in child support? After reviewing the parents' Income and Expense Declaration, the judge will consider the net disposable income for each parent. They will look at the parent's income after the following expenses:

  • Taxes
  • Mandatory union dues
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • Health premiums 
  • Spousal support or child support that is already required
  • The costs associated with raising children from another relationship

California courts will consider all of the parents' sources of income, including the following:

  • Wages from employment
  • Earnings form self-employment
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Social security benefits
  • Pensions
  • Stocks and dividends
  • Interest from investments
  • Income from rental property 
  • Winnings from the state lottery, or other prizes

Typically, courts will base the amount of child support on how much time each parent spends with the child. This way of determining the required child support amount is called “time-share.” The court will calculate how many hours a parent will physically spend with their child. The less time that a parent physically spends with their child, the more he or she may be required to pay in child support.

What Types of Expenses Does the Court Consider When Calculating Child Support?

California courts consider all of the following types of expenses that are included when figuring out the amount of child support each child needs:

  • Back child support payments
  • Interest on back child support payments
  • Health insurance
  • Food 
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Basic education
  • Child care
  • Unpaid medical bills
  • Travel costs for visitation
  • Extracurricular activities including lessons, sports, field trips, and other activities
  • Other essentials for the child

Under California law, judges can order one or both parents to provide monetary support, pay for the child's health insurance. Judges can also order parents to pay back payments with interests. Essentially, judges consider each parent's net disposable income as well as “time-share” considerations or how much time each parent physically spends with the child.

How Long Does a Parent Need to Pay Child Support?

A parent's duty to legally and financially support their child lasts until:

  • The child turns 18 and has graduated from high school. Any child who attends part-time school due to a medical condition, or is a full-time high school student, will continue to receive child support.
  • The child turns 19 years old, or
  • The child marries, dies, joins the military, or is legally free in some way

What Happens When the Child is Disabled?

California courts can order parents to continue paying child support for a disabled adult child if that child cannot financially support himself or herself.

How to Prepare for a Child Support Hearing in California

When one parent challenges the child support order issued by a California court, both parents will need to attend a child support hearing. Child support hearings are not something that anyone should take lightly. An improper decision might financially cripple the parent who receives child support or the parent who pays child support. 

It is important to take child support hearings extremely seriously. Your child support lawyer will help you prepare for the hearing by gathering proof of your income as well as proof of your expenses. You should bring copies of your tax returns for the last two years, two months of your pay stubs, and any documentation showing income from any other sources, including cash payments. 

The Benefits of Hiring an Experienced California Child Support Lawyer

There are many benefits to hiring an experienced California child support lawyer. California's child support laws can be difficult to understand, especially when it comes to figuring out how judges make child support decisions. Whether you need to seek a modification to your child support order, or you would like your child support order to remain the same, we can help fight for you and your child's best interests. Contact our Dublin, California child support law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

About the Author

Caroline D. Ham

Caroline D. Ham Ms. Ham has practiced exclusively in the field of family law since she was admitted to practice in 2009. She specializes in complex divorce, custody, support, paternity, domestic violence matters and mediation. Ms. Ham understands the complex emotional feelings a family law matte...

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