Understanding Child Support Law
Child Support is just one part of a process that can be challenging and stressful. Having some understanding of how child support works and what is required of you will eliminate some of that stress.
This article will provide an outline of the basics and most often asked questions about child support law. Each state has its own child support laws based on the federal statute. No two child support cases are precisely the same. For those two reasons, you should always have sound legal representation.
Both parents are financially responsible for their children. California law assumes the primary parent makes a significant contribution already. The support payments are the obligation of the other parent. Any children should share the same standard of living as both parents. The amount of child support is determined by the Child-Support Commissioner or a family law judge. All income, including tips, bonuses, unemployment and disability benefits, investment income, or any other incomes such as insurance or lottery payments, ALL income is used to calculate child support.
Even when the parent has no income, they are still responsible for support payments. However, they may petition for a modification if there are significant impacts on their ability to pay.
Although visitation and child support are often decided at the same time, one has nothing to do with the other. If the custodial parent refuses visitation, you must still pay the child support. If child-support is delinquent, that does not allow for the withholding of visitation. Child-support is essentially a reimbursement to the custodial parent for ongoing expenses. Therefore, payments are not tax-deductible. Payments are also not income to the primary parent. The court can add additional items such as for special needs, employment-related childcare, and other ongoing expenses. Absent a significant disparity in incomes, these additional charges are split between the parents.
California law requires that support payments continue until the child reaches the age of 18 or high school graduation at 19. When the parent responsible for paying support is employed, federal law requires the employer to withhold these payments from their paycheck. This provides a record of payment should there be any dispute. Failure to pay child support can result in garnishment of wages, seizure of bank accounts, suspension of driver’s license, and more. You may also be required to pay an additional amount above the court-ordered payment to make up the past due amount.
There is much more to know and understand about child support law. The main thing to keep in mind is that child-support law in California was created to minimize conflict and to always look to the best interest of the child. Every family has different circumstances, and each case is unique in its own right. All of the decisions you will make regarding child support have a significant impact on everyone involved. It is critically important for you to approach this process seriously and with a basic understanding of how it works.