Child Support is the amount of money the court orders a parent to pay on a monthly basis for the support of the child or children.
Starting child support. Parents are equally responsible for providing for the needs of their minor children. However, the court cannot enforce this obligation without an order. When parents separate, a parent must ask the court for child support or an order establishing they are the parent (paternity).
The obligation to pay child support is usually until the child reaches the age of 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school, living at home, and cannot support themselves).
Initial Child Support Determination:
California has a statewide formula, often referred to as guideline support for determining the amount of child support. The formula depends factors on such as:
- how much each parent earns or can earn
- how much other income each parent receives
- how much time each parent spends with the children
- actual tax filing status of the parents
- support of children from other relationships
- health insurance expenses
- mandatory union dues and retirement contributions
- and other factors.
There are a few circumstances when the court can deviate from the guideline formula, such as when one parent is a low income earner or high income earner.
End of Child Support Obligation. Child support generally ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school whichever first occurs. If your child is 18 but still a full time high school student and living at home child support ends when the child graduates or turns 19 whichever first occurs.
Child support also ends when a child:
- Marries or registers a domestic partnership,
- Joins the military,
- Is emancipated,
- or dies.
A court may also order that parent's to pay child support to a disabled adult child past the age of 18.
Modification Of Child Support
A parent may seek to modify the amount of child support because of a change in circumstances. The parent has to show this change is sufficient to require a modification of child support. If a parent's income level greatly increases, this increase will have a direct bearing on increasing the support payments. Therefore, for example, if you receive a salary increase, the other parent may attempt to modify the payments.
Failing To Pay Court Ordered Child Support (Arrears)
Not paying child support can have some very severe consequences.
If you fall behind on your child support you must pay interest at 10% per year for each year child support was due.
If the court finds you had the ability to pay child support as ordered, but are willfully not paying, the court can determine that you are in `contempt`. Being in contempt can be serious and can result in jail time.
If you find yourself unable to pay your child support obligation. you should consult an attorney, or local self help center as soon as possible to discuss your rights and the possibility of a modification to prevent further arrears and possible contempt action.