California child support laws are designed to ensure that kids receive equal and adequate financial support from both parents – but how do they work, and how do the courts determine how much money each parent is supposed to contribute?
California Child Support Laws: The Basics
In the state of California, child support is the money a court orders one or both parents to pay each month for expenses related to raising a child (or more than one child).
There’s a specific guideline that shows judges how to determine the amount of child support required, but it’s just that: a guideline. Several factors affect how much child support has to change hands, and nothing is final until a judge signs a child support order.
Parents who receive child support can use it for any expenses that are commonly associated with raising a child, including food, clothes and shelter, as well as medical, school and transportation expenses, entertainment and extracurricular activities.
Who Pays More, Mothers or Fathers?
Because both parents are responsible for providing financial support, the court creates a child support order based on both parents’ incomes and how much time they each spend with the child or children. The courts assume that the parent who is physically with the child is financially responsible during that time (that’s why visitation and child custody – the amount of time each parent spends with the child – plays a role in child support decisions).
There’s nothing in California child support law that says fathers or mothers have to pay more; the guidelines take several factors into account to determine what’s fair for the child.
The California Child Support Formula
The judge will calculate how much each parent is required to pay by looking at both people’s net disposable income. Net disposable income is the money left over after taxes, mandatory retirement contributions and union dues, health premiums, other child support or spousal support, and the costs related to raising kids from another relationship.
The court will look at all sources of income for both parents, including:
- Disability and worker’s compensation benefits
- Dividends and stocks
- Income from rental properties
- Inheritances and prize winnings
- Interest earned on investments
- Self-employment earnings
- Social Security income and pensions
- Unemployment benefits
- Wages, tips, bonuses and commissions
The expenses included when the court determines child support include:
- Money for food, clothing and shelter
- Health insurance costs
- Back payments and interest on back payments
A judge can order a parent to contribute to other expenses, too, such as:
- Child care
- Unpaid medical bills
- Travel costs for visitation
- Extracurricular activities
What is Parentage?
Parentage is a legal determination of who is responsible for supporting a child – and it’s important to know that a person does not have to be a biological parent to be legally responsible for a child. Parentage can be established in several ways.
How Long Does a Parent Have to Pay Child Support?
Typically, child support lasts until the child reaches the age of majority and stops when the child turns 18 and has finished high school or turns 19 without finishing high school. There are a few exceptions, though, such as when a child becomes incapacitated or disabled – then, the parents have a duty to support the child indefinitely.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About California Child Support Laws?
We can answer your questions about California child support laws and other matters regarding divorce, and we can refer you to outside help if you and your children need someone to talk to.
Call us at 209-910-9865 or get in touch with a Stockton divorce attorney online to schedule a consultation today. We’ll discuss your case, find out about your circumstances and start formulating a plan that gets you and your children the best possible outcome.