Divorce is complicated. Splitting a life into two parts is daunting enough all on its own, but—just like everything else in life—with children involved, things gets trickier. Between custody, and visitation schedules, there’s a lot to figure out when it comes to kids, and child support certainly isn’t cheap. If you’re a parent contemplating divorce, and you’re fairly sure that your kids won’t live with you most of the time, you’re not alone in wondering when child support ends in California.
Here’s what you need to know about California child support, including how to estimate the amount of your payments, and how long these obligations will last.
What is Child Support?
If your divorce goes a lot like most we see, your child custody arrangement won’t result in a 50/50 physical custody split. Instead, the division will be unequal, with the primary custodial parent spending a lot more on child-related expenses than the other. In these situations, child support is meant to help offset the incredible costs of raising a child, and is usually made by the non-custodial parent in a divorce.
What is Child Support For?
Child support is money intended to help pay for a child’s expenses. While this naturally means food and clothes, these funds aren’t just about essential survival. Child support payments can be used to pay rent, compensate for transportation costs, buy groceries—even if they feed other people in the house—and can even cover things like extracurricular activities and entertainment for the child. These funds are a contribution to the family’s community money that helps keep the child’s standard of living intact.
In general, courts do not micromanage how child support funds are spent, and short of obvious neglect or abuse, a parent isn’t going to be required to make an accounting of them. Not only would such a thing not be feasible (since children are so integrated into our lives and expenses), but it would also place a huge, unnecessary strain on an already-overloaded court system.
Child Support Obligations: More Than Just Money
Child support isn’t only a financial payment each month, it also includes things like healthcare coverage (such as medical, vision and dental). Parents who already have insurance will likely be ordered to continue this coverage, so long as the costs are reasonable. If health insurance payments are made out of pocket, these obligations can be used to offset the total owed in child support. In the event that neither you or your spouse has health insurance when you divorce, don’t be surprised if a judge orders you to start paying for it, as it’s pretty standard procedure for courts to require healthcare in child support and parenting orders.
In addition to healthcare insurance, your divorce order will likely include a separate provision addressing expenses accrued out of pocket (such as a deductible or any uninsured medical costs). Since both parents are responsible for financially providing for their children, if you end up shouldering these kinds of expenses while caring for your child, you should be entitled to a fifty percent reimbursement from your former spouse.
Under California law, parents don’t have a lot of say in the amount of child support. The state has specific guidelines on how much money a non-custodial parent has to pay for the care of his or her child, and unless you have special circumstances, the court isn’t going to deviate from these guidelines.
The only exception, is if the non-custodial parent wants to pay more than the court orders. If both parents agree to payments that are greater than what California’s guidelines require, the court will likely honor this arrangement.
If you are curious what your payments might look like, try using this child support calculator. Keep in mind, however, that this amount can be adjusted to fit what’s “fair and reasonable,” and the final amount will ultimately be up to your judge.
When Does Child Support End in California?
Many individuals assume that child support payments end when the child turns eighteen, and this isn’t the case. In California, a non-custodial parent is typically required to pay child support until the child turns nineteen, or until high school graduation, whichever comes first. The only circumstances a parent can stop paying child support early, is if the child:
- Gets married;
- Joins the military;
- Becomes emancipated; or
- Passes away.
Do Child Support Payments Have to End When a Child is Old Enough?
Parents can agree to pay child support for as long as they want. Usually, extending payments beyond the child’s age of majority happens when parents want to pay for college. If you or your spouse are willing to continue paying child support during the time your child is in college, this can be written into your divorce agreement. The key is that you must both agree.
California Child Support Attorneys
If you have questions about child support in California—including queries about calculating payments, and when this support will end—we can help. Call us right away at (209) 546-6870 or get in touch with a Stockton divorce attorney online, and let our team help make sure your child support needs are being met.