Child support is the amount of money ordered by a court to pay a parent or both parents every month to help pay for the living expenses of their child. State law in California presumes that every parent has a duty to support his or her child financially. Child support is for the purpose of providing food, clothing, medical care and ability to get an education. This article will provide detailed information pertaining to Child support rights and the obligations in the state of California.
Child support obligations
Child support obligations continue in California until the child reaches the age of 18-although if the child is a full-time high school student, payments may continue until he or she turns 19 or completes the 12th grade, whichever comes first. Additionally, if the child is incapacitated and unable to earn a living, both the father and mother have an equal responsibility to maintain the child, regardless of his or her age. Child support must be determined before finalizing a divorce or separation. Parents need to complete financial disclosures and provide information to assist the court in determining a suitable amount of child support.
How to request a child support?
A child support services case can be opened by either parent, or a legal guardian, whether or not a child support court order exists. If you already have a court order, opening a case offers neutral assistance with every part of the process, keeps records, and helps both parties stay on track.
Calculation of child support in California
Child support in California is based on a complex calculation given in the statewide guideline that takes into account the income of the parents, how much time each parent spends with the child, and any tax deductions available to either parent. Each parent is needed to fill out a perjury penalty statement of revenue and expense and provide evidence of the quantity of their revenue. The judge will consider each parent’s net disposable income. This means income after taxes from the parent, compulsory union dues, compulsory retirement contributions, health premiums, child or spousal support already paid, and costs associated with raising children from another relationship.
Modifying a child support order
The child support order completed in a divorce is permanent. However, a court order for child support may be modified. If conditions change in life, either parent may demand a modification. In simpler terms, if you or the other parent of your child has experienced significant changes in life, you are entitled to apply for a change to your child support order. There are, however, only grounds for modification that will be considered appropriate. The grounds include such as changes in income, imprisonment of the parent, loss of child, reduction in the time spent or even having additional changes. Such grounds may help in modifying the original final child support order made during the time of divorce. In the end, the major thing to remember is that the best interests of the child need to be considered when contemplating any child support modification.
Failure to pay
Failure to pay child support can have severe consequences. Besides increasing arrearages and paying 10% interest on non-paid child support payments, there are various consequences you can face for failing to pay child support in California. If a parent can pay and is simply not paying it purposely, they can be found to be a contempt of court. This is a serious offense that may involve imprisonment as California Penal Code § 270 states, “If a parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or both.”
For the implementation of the order or collect on owed child support, the person owed the money needs to take a copy of the support order to a local child support agency and the steps above can be taken in order to enforce it. A criminal charge for contempt of court is usually a last resort option that is used if all other enforcement mechanisms have failed to get the owed child support paid to the parent who is owed it. If a parent is unable to pay child support, the parent is entitled to file a complaint and request a hearing. When filing legal paperwork relating to your child support case, it is important for an attorney to advise you of your options and rights.
Alternative payment options – using a Trust to provide child support
Making direct payments for child support is not the only option available. There are alternate options available such as using a trust. If you want to create a trust exclusively for child support purposes, you will need to request and obtain a change from the court to the original child support order. In southern California, you will need to be consulted by an experienced lawyer to apply for and obtain a child support order change.
Finances held in a trust may be distributed annually to named beneficiaries, placing some of the trust’s finances in their personal accounts once a year. In such a situation, the annual trust money is seen as income if the beneficiary is expected to pay child support. Therefore, when necessary, it can and should be used to pay support.
To modify a child support order and create a trust for child support purposes, you’ll need to show a judge that granting your modification request is in the best interests of the child. As mentioned above, the paramount priority of California’s family courts is the best interests of the children.
Moving out of state
If one of the parents moved out of California, a child support order can still be enforced. To avoid having to pay child support, one parent can not merely relocate out of state. Federal law uses the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act passed in all 50 states. As per this law, if a parent has moved out of the state where a child support order was first entered, no other state can change the order if either of the parties or the child for whom the support was meant to benefit still lives in that state.
References for personal use:
- Superior Court of Orange County – Family Law Information
- Judicial Council of California – Child Support Information
- HG.org Legal Resources – HGExperts.com – Guide to Child Support Rights