California Child Support Laws
Under California law, a parent's first and most important obligation is to support his or her children. This becomes especially significant if you're going through a divorce, separation, or paternity suit because in these situations, a court will decide who gets custody of your children, who pays child support, how much they have to pay, and other important issues. If you're facing any of these serious life events, you'll want to know how the child support laws work in California.
What California Law Says About Who Pays Child Support
Typically, the noncustodial parent is the one who makes regular payments of child support to the custodial parent (Sec. 3002, et seq). The custodial parent is the one who will be with ("in custody of") the child the majority of the time, paying for many of the expenses of raising a child: food, housing, education, health care, etc. (Sec 3004, et seq., Sec. 4053). If the parents are unable to reach a custody agreement themselves, the court will determine who the custodial parent will be. Both parents must support their unmarried children until they are 18 years old, or longer for children who are full-time high school students or disabled adults incapable of supporting themselves) (Sec. 3022, 3580, 3900, et seq.).
What California Law Says About Calculating Child Support
A court usually determines child support payments based on income. For the purposes of determining child support, "income" includes not only salary or hourly wages, but other types of funds as well. Sources of income may include:
- Any commissions earned
- Hourly wages
- Spousal support payments
- Lottery winnings
After your total income is determined, the court uses a statewide uniform guideline formula to see how much you owe or should be paid (Sec. 4055). This formula takes into account a number of factors, including (Sec. 4055):
- Parents' incomes
- Number of children who need support
- Percentage of time each spouse will spend with the children
- Amount of money each parent spends on costs like health care and daycare
- Each parent's tax liabilities
It should be noted that a court may order a higher or lower amount than what the formula suggests, depending on what is in the best interests of the child (Sec. 4056).
Read the full text of the Code of California for more detail.
My Spouse and I Are Separating: What's Next?
The issue of child support can have a huge impact on your financial stability and the wellbeing of your children. There are many details to consider, from who gets custody of the kids to what equals "income." You may even run into trouble establishing paternity or enforcing court-ordered child support. The California Department of Child Support Services provides many online resources for both custodial and noncustodial parents, including:
- A child support application
- Forms for establishing and declaring paternity
- Assistance locating a parent and enforcing child support orders
- Guidance for modifying your child support amount
- Making payments
- Checking your child support account
Not Sure About Child Support After Your Divorce? Get a Free Case Review
Divorce and child support issues can take a huge toll on both the spouses and children involved. And in California, the formula used to calculate child support payments can be especially confusing. An experienced divorce lawyer can guide you through the ordeal and protect your interests. Receive a free legal evaluation from a local attorney familiar with California's child support laws.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Child Support Articles
- What Are The Child Support Guidelines in California?
- Collecting Child Support Across State Lines
- The Child Support Enforcement Program
- The Child Support Process in California
- How The Local Child Support Office Can Help You
- The Fsd Or Local Child Support Agency Provides The Following Services:
- The Fsd Or Local Child Support Agency Does Not:
- Opening A Child Support Case
- What Happens When A Custodial Parent Assigns His/Her Right To Support?
- Discontinuing Child Support Services
- How is Child Support Is Distributed In Calworks Cases?
- Receiving Credit For In-Kind Child Support Payments
- The Non-Custodial Parent And The Child Support Process
- What To do When An Action For Child Support Is Served Upon You
- What Is A Child Support Judgment?
- Wage Assignments And Deductions For Health Insurance From Child Support Obligations
- Modification Of Child Support Orders
- Failure To Pay Child Support
- I Am Sure The Other Parent Is Willing To Pay Support. Can We Make An Agreement Between Ourselves And Present It To The Court?
- What The Fsd Or Local Child Support Agency Needs To Establish Paternity When The Alleged Father Does Not Cooperate
- The Other Parent Is In Jail. Can I Get Support?
- How Child Support Is Enforced
- Keeping Track Of Payments
- I Have A California Support Order. The Non-Custodial Parent Now Lives In Another State. I Know He/She Has Land And Other Assets. Can I Get Help?