Child support laws in California help ensure that both parents are financially responsible for their children. The courts use a special formula to determine how much one parent will pay the other parent, and once a judge orders child support, it remains the same unless you go back to court to change it (or the child reaches a certain age).
Child Support Laws in California: What You Need to Know
California Family Code 4053 provides a framework for the way child support laws work here, and it explains that children should enjoy the same standards of living that their parents enjoy. It also shows that in California, the parent who has primary parenting time – the one who has the child more often than the other parent – is assumed to contribute more resources to the child. (But that’s not always the case, and if that’s your situation, make sure you let your Stockton divorce lawyer know.)
The Family Court doesn’t always have to follow California’s child support guidelines. In some situations, the guidelines just aren’t right – but if you feel that the guidelines are a bad fit for your family, your attorney will have to show the court that using them to determine child support would be “unjust or inappropriate.”
What if You Agree to More (or Less) Than What the Child Support Guidelines Say You Should Pay?
Parents are free to reach their own agreements on child support. If you and your ex decide that one of you should pay more or less than what the guidelines would require – and you’re both in agreement, and nobody’s being coerced – the courts will consider your request. However, if the amount is less than what the guidelines require, you can be sure that the court will look at your request very carefully.
How Child Support Laws in California Work
When you or your ex will have to pay child support, the court will create an order that outlines how much money is supposed to change hands. These ongoing monthly payments for the care and support of your children last until each child turns 18 or 19. If you have three children, and one turns 18 and becomes ineligible for child support payments, the support for that child stops. It continues for the other two until each of them comes of age.
When Would You Pay Child Support Until Your Child Turns 19?
You may have to pay (or you may receive) child support until your child turns 19. That happens when your child is unmarried and attending high school full-time. If your child turns 19 and is already enrolled in high school full-time, support payments don’t typically end until he or she graduates.
There are exceptions to every rule, though, which means that you’ll have to talk to your attorney about the specifics.
What if You Don’t Follow Child Support Laws in California?
When a judge orders you to pay child support, you’re legally required to do so. If you’re able to pay and you’re just not doing it, you can be found in contempt of court – and that can actually land you behind bars.
If you cannot afford to pay your child support, you’ll need to let the court know – either through your attorney or on your own. You may be able to get your support amount lowered, but only if there has been a significant change in your circumstances since the last time the judge ordered you to pay.
There can be serious consequences for failing to pay child support, including the court:
- Freezing your assets
- Suspending your driver’s license
- Suspending your professional license
- Reporting to credit bureaus
- Garnishing your wages, tax refund, workers compensation benefits or disability benefits
Child Support and Your Passport
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About the Child Support Laws in California?
Whether you think you’ll have to pay child support or that you’ll be entitled to receive it, we can help.
Call us at 209-910-9865 to set up your consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable child support and divorce attorney in Stockton today.