No matter the custody situation, both parents of a child usually have financial responsibility for that child. Across the nation, parents must fiscally support a child or face legal consequences. That said, child support situations can be challenging to navigate. Here’s what you need to know about your rights and responsibilities as they pertain to child support.
When is Child Support Needed?
A judge may order a parent to pay child support under three main circumstances. These are:
- legal separation
- paternity cases
In each of these situations, there is a separation of the child from the parent that would preclude normal means of financial support. The court assumes that the custodial parent is already fiscally supporting the child by way of food, clothing, hosting, and other costs. If the child is separated from the other parent in any way, child support provides a legal means of ensuring continued fiscal responsibility for the child.
Child support continues until the child turns 18 years old, unless the child is still in high school and resides with a parent, at which point the support may legally continue until the child turns 19. If the child becomes self-supporting in any way, such as through marriage or joining the military, the child support may end. On the flip side, the child may continue to receive child support if they have a disability or other circumstances that prevent them from becoming self-supporting.
How Child Support Is Calculated
Courts determine child support responsibilities by assessing the net disposable incomes of both parents. Rather than creating undue burden on either parent, the court uses a sophisticated mathematical formula to decide how much support a parent is required to provide the child. This formula includes:
- salary, wages, or other earnings from employment, including self-employment
- commission income
- benefits from unemployment, disability, or other state assistance
- workers’ compensation
- social security income
- payouts from pensions
- income from interest or dividends from investments
- lottery, monetary rewards, or other winnings
To determine the child support amount, both parents will need to provide all documentation of these various sources of income. All these sources are compared with existing financial responsibilities, including housing costs, taxes, union dues, healthcare premiums, retirement contributions, and pre-existing child support arrangements.
The court shall also assess other expenses that may impact the parent’s ability to pay child support, including costs for childcare, healthcare, and transportation for visitation. In some cases, these add-on expenses may be divided equally among parents or proportionately assigned based on their income. Another factor in determining guideline child support is the proportionate time-share that a parent has with the child.
What Happens to Parents Who Do Not Pay Child Support?
Once a court mandates child support, any parent who does not comply will be subject to severe penalties. The law permits for wages to be garnished, driver’s and professional licenses such as medical and law licenses and passports to be revoked or suspended, credit scores to be impacted, and liens to be placed on one’s property. Also, parents who do not pay child support may have their tax refund, unemployment income, and workers’ compensation reduced. If they continue to not pay, they may be subject to fines and even incarceration.
A parent may not evade child support by refusing to work. A court may impute someone, based on their employment history and qualifications, and determine an amount for which they are fiscally responsible to the child.
If the custodial parent struggles to receive child support from the parent who owes child support, they may petition the court to garnish wages or otherwise procure the funds from the parent.
Do Parents Have a Say in What They Pay?
If parents mutually agree on financial obligations, the courts may take that into consideration. Parents may also offer and agree to pay a higher amount of child support. If a parent would like to agree to receive less, they must not receive public assistance and they must affirm to the court that they know their rights and were not coerced into the agreement. As always, the best interest of the child comes first: the child’s needs must be met in any arrangement.
If circumstances change and the child spends more time with the non-custodial parent, or if one parent experiences a sharp decline or increase in their financial stability, the child support arrangement may change. If one parent has another child or becomes incarcerated, the arrangement may change under those circumstances as well. However, the court must also reevaluate both parents’ financial situation and the time they spend with the child in order to make a new determination.
Can A Parent Deny Visitation if Child Support Is Not Paid?
Under California law, any parent who has been granted visitation rights under a custody arrangement can continue to enjoy those rights, even if they are behind or short on their child support payments. It’s important to accommodate visitation rights. If a custodial parent feels that the other parent is using visitation rights without supplying financial support, they may petition the courts for a new arrangement or submit a request for the other parent’s wages to be garnished. However, it is important to note that custodial and visitation rights are separate and apart from child support. Just because a parent does not pay child support, it does not mean that they do not have any custodial or visitation rights. Similarly, just because a parent pays child support, it does not mean that they have more custodial or visitation rights.
Common Mistakes Made in Child Support Cases
Child support is understandably an emotionally stressful and contentious subject. However, it’s extremely important to abide by California law and adhere to all requirements issued by a court. Failure to comply may cause substantial problems down the line. Both parents in a child support determination case must honestly disclose their income and expenses. If they do not, they will be easily found out — and potentially fined or forced to issue back pay to the custodial parent with interest.
It’s also important to send your child support the proper way. Wage garnishment might be the ideal means of collecting child support, because it takes any confusion out of the question. The parent owing child support can rest assured that they are meeting their commitment. However, other methods may be approved by the court or more preferable for the parties involved. No matter which method is decided upon, the parent should ensure that they comply to avoid repercussions.
Both parents should immediately report any income changes, positive or negative, to the courts and request a modification to the child support arrangement. Even bonuses and side job income must be reported so that the courts can make the most accurate determination.
Never assume that you can keep something secret from the court. It’s well worth your peace of mind to be forthright about your earnings. Should you need assistance, a dedicated child support attorney can help you navigate the process.
Child support can change swiftly and have lasting effects if not handled properly. Both parents must be vigilant and transparent about their income and expenses in order to best provide for the child. Keeping in contact with the courts is the best way to ensure that child support is fairly apportioned and collected. As with anything, honesty is the best policy to ensure the child’s wellbeing. For comprehensive representation in any Child Custody and Child Support matter, contact Azemika & Azemika Law. We will fight for and protect you and your family during the separation and divorce process. Contact us today by phone at 661-322-8166 to arrange an initial consultation with our attorneys or send us a message now!