An order to pay child support is one of the most emotionally-draining aspects of a divorce or separation. We understand that it is one of the hardest things to go through and can be one of the most overwhelming. Every state utilizes its own guidelines for establishing child support. While they share some similarities, they can ultimately be very different.
But how does California calculate child support?
Depending on your case’s specifics, it may not be as simple as you would hope. If you’re like most people, you’ve never thought to look into how California determines child support before filing for divorce. Let’s take a look at the particulars of California state law.
Understanding Child Support
When dealing with child custody, judges in California must rule in the child’s best interest. The same applies to child support orders. One or both parents may be required to pay child support to cover necessary living expenses for their child.
There are two key factors judges use to determine child support. The first is the total income of each parent. Both parties will be required to fill out an Income and Expense Declaration, which will determine the final estimates. A divorce attorney from our firm can assist you in completing the form.
The second is what’s referred to as the time-share. How much time you spend with your child gets broken down into a percentage and used with your income to determine who will be paying child support and receiving it.
It’s possible to determine what your child support responsibilities might be beforehand. The California government provides an online calculator here that includes all the factors of the state’s guidelines. Thoroughly reading the calculator requires knowledge of California law, but one of our lawyers can help you understand what it all means.
5 Common Questions About Child Support in California
We know there are likely many questions swirling around in your head when trying to figure out how to calculate what your child support could be. We’ve answered a few of the most common questions for you.
1. What About Multiple Children?
If you have multiple children, you’ll have to make payments for each child. A judge will use the first calculation to determine each payment. However, older children will receive smaller payments than younger kids.
2. What Does Child Support Cover?
There are specific things a parent’s child support payments are supposed to cover. These also factor into the overall payment amount. However, keep in mind that child support ensures that both parents share the responsibility in covering expenses.
All child support orders cover the basics of food, clothes, healthcare/insurance, and housing costs. Again, the party paying child support won’t be paying the entirety of these costs, just contributing. Though some other costs may not apply to your situation, these are mandatory.
Other costs that aren’t required but a judge may still order include medical bills, school-related costs (including extracurricular activities), and professional child care costs. Parents can elect to include other costs as part of child support, even if a judge doesn’t order them.
3. How Long Does Child Support Last?
As the name would imply, child support assists in raising children, but the commonly-held legal definition of an adult doesn’t necessarily apply here. While age certainly plays a role in determining when support stops, it’s isn’t always the only one. The only time that age is the sole factor is when a child turns nineteen.
A child support order may end when a child turns eighteen, but only if they have graduated high-school. An eighteen-year-old who is still a student, even if only part-time, is still considered a child and will require support. Child support payments end automatically once they are nineteen, even if they haven’t graduated.
If your child becomes independent through marriage or joining the military, they are no longer eligible to receive child support. Usually, this only happens once they are eighteen but may occur at a younger age depending on their location. You also cease to pay support for a child that has passed away.
The only time child support continues past nineteen is in the case of disability. If a court determines that a disabled adult cannot take care of themself due to their condition, they may order child support payments to continue. Such orders can continue until their condition improves, or longer if their situation doesn’t improve and allow them to provide for themselves.
4. Is Child Support Flexible in Any Way?
California created a set of rules for determining child support called the Guideline. While the Guideline utilizes a formula to determine child support payments, the state legislature recognizes that there are unique circumstances that they must account for to maintain fairness. A judge is required to acknowledge these factors when devising the final order.
The most significant variable that can alter support payments is a large discrepancy between both parents’ income. A payer who makes considerably more money than their ex-spouse will end up paying more, but the amount may be changed. The law allows this to prevent a parent from paying more than their share of expenses.
Something similar can happen when comparing time-share. A judge will consider how much time a parent gets to spend with their child and compare it to the financial support they provide. A parent who pays most child-rearing expenses but doesn’t get to spend much time with them may see their financial responsibilities diminish.
Of course, some factors can increase child support beyond the usual calculations. A child with a medical condition that results in high expenses will need more significant aid to have their needs met.
Keep in mind that a judge may change the order any time after ordering it as well. Often, this can occur due to a change in the children’s or one of the parent’s lives. If reported to a judge, they may deem a necessary change. Parents can also agree to make changes with the court’s consent or challenging aspects of the order.
5. What If I Can’t Pay Child Support?
If you miss a payment, it’s best to try and resolve the matter quickly. California will go through multiple avenues to recover the missed compensation. On top of that, the state adds ten percent interest to missed payments, increasing the amount you owe. In especially bad cases, you could face severe legal consequences.
If you can’t meet your payment obligations, it’s best to talk to a family law attorney as soon as you can. Depending on why you missed your payment, you may be able to change the terms of your child support order.
Hire Azemika Law for Your Child Support Case
Our team at Azemika & Azemika has been practicing in Kern County family law for over thirty years. If you need a family law attorney to help with your divorce, child visitation or support, custody, or adoption, you can count on us.
For comprehensive representation in any child custody and child support matter, call Azemika & Azemika Law. We will fight for and protect you and your family during the separation and divorce process. Contact us online or by phone to arrange an initial consultation with our attorneys.