Divorces in California are often long and drawn out. This is sometimes due to the most time-consuming and emotional aspect of any divorce: child custody. All child custody divorce outcomes are unique, but typically children of divorced parents either spend equivalent time with both parents on a set schedule or live with one parent and may or may not be allowed to visit the other. In divorce court proceedings, the judge will decide if one parent must pay child support to the other parent.

Many factors contribute to the judge’s final decision, such as financial situations, the reasons for divorce, and the children’s necessities. It is imperative for parents who pay support to thoroughly comprehend their situational custody agreement and payment responsibilities.

Duty To Support Minors

Both parents are legally obligated to support their children until the child is 18 years old. Federal law requires that the parents must take care of the child from conception to the day they become a legal adult. Minors cannot fend for themselves, they need their parents to do this. Think about a 2-year-old cub in the wild, if its mother was off somewhere else and a mountain lion came to the cub, who would protect it? It’s the same concept, the parents must be there to protect and ensure the child is healthy and could thrive in the environment they are residing in. In some cases, the California court can prolong this obligation past the age of 18. For example, if the child is disabled, the parents may be obligated to continue supporting the child past the age of 18. If the disease or injury was lifelong, then lifelong payments would most likely ensue.

California courts require child support payments to be fair and equal for the state’s high cost of living and high cost of raising a child. Parents must act in accordance with the law when paying child support, and failure to pay on time could lead to a large fine, or possibly a lawsuit. Both parents need to be equally responsible for the child’s health and safety. Only in special circumstances may a parent deviate from their given duties when paying child support.

Determining Child Support

When determining support, California courts follow a statewide Uniform Guideline that takes the following factors into account:

  • Both parents’ annual income
  • Amount of time the child spends with each parent
  • Cost of child care
  • Any available tax deductions, such as mortgage interest
  • Mandatory dues such as pension or health insurance
  • Other factors subject to discretion (CA Family Code § 4055.)

California courts take these factors into account to reflect each parent’s respective standard of living. In most cases, the support order will indirectly benefit the primary custodial parent. Family Code § 4053(f) states: “Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.”

The purpose of this statewide Uniform Guideline is to  “encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.”(Family Code § 4053(j)). Child support determinations are often estimated using a support calculator. Click here to be taken to the government-provided support calculator.

Child support determinations are often considered to be unfair. In order to protect your rights, it is imperative that you hire a Pride Legal Family Law Attorney. Our team of attorneys will gather all applicable information in order to arrive at a reasonable support determination. This information mainly includes both parents’ respective income and assets.

If you contest to hold a support hearing, it is imperative to bring copies of all the documents you used to determine your income. These documents may include:

  • W-2 Forms
  • Pay Stubs
  • Income and Expense Declarations
  • Tax Returns, AND
  • All additional documents may help the court determine your annual income.

California courts are legally able to make temporary child support decisions during divorce processes. If the issue of support is urgent, a California court may begin by settling that issue as soon as possible. If you believe your children are not receiving reasonable support, it is imperative that you contact a Pride Legal Family Law Attorney today.

Modification

Child-support orders are not final. Major financial or personal circumstances may serve as just cause for modification to your child support agreement. These major life events may include a job change, severe injury, or other significant expenses. In California, a judicial order is required to increase or decrease support.

California courts take out mandatory dues when calculating child support, but other expenses may be accounted for. The court’s top priority is the safety and security of the children, so expenses such as loans taken out due to gambling debts won’t be excluded from child support. If a parent had taken out a loan for a business, however, a court may decide that this could be excluded from child support payments.

In some cases, child support can even be increased. This is called imputing your income. If the court believes that a person is making less than they should be, or has lowered their annual income while the court is calculating child support, the court may authorize to impute the income. The court will not impute income if the parent decides to attend school later and increase their earnings.

When To Stop Paying Child Support

In most cases, parents cease to pay child support once the receiving child reaches the age of majority. The age of majority, which is the age the state law deems children able to soundly make their own life decisions, varies depending on the given state but is typically 18 years old. In some cases, support may continue past the age of 18. In the cases where a spouse does not pay out for certain years of child support, or if a child is disabled or diseased, only then would a court have the chance to agree to child support over the age of 18.

Parents must understand that support payments do not automatically stop. Once the child has met the requirements necessary to end support, a formal request must be made by the support-paying parent to end the child support. A person could not just pay one large sum of money to their ex-spouse and be done with child support. Theoretically, this sounds like the perfect plan to get off the hook about worrying about paying any more child support in California. Sadly, this is not the case. If the child becomes hurt, injured, or needs surgery, the parent needing to pay child support have to split the bill. This is why it’s important to have a trusted accountant deal with the child support payments and have them remind you once it’s time to stop paying.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is battling for child support, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.