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In California, child support can greatly exceed the actual cost of raising a child. This is due to the child support calculation known as the Guideline formula in Family Code Section 4055, along with it’s guiding principles found in Family Code Section 4053. In brief, the Guideline formula is designed to allow the child to share in the standard of living of both households, and may appropriately increase the standard of living of the recipient household. As a result, California has been criticized for its outrageous child support awards that greatly exceed the actual cost of raising a child. Nevertheless, the Guideline formula is presumptively correct in California child support proceedings.
Since child support orders have a lasting financial impact upon both parties, hiring an experienced family law attorney can greatly impact the financial repercussions of child support proceedings. To learn more about California child support law call our Santa Rosa divorce lawyer at (916) 250-1610 for a free consultation.
Child Support Under California Law
Parents have the responsibility to care for, guide, and support their child. But what happens when the parents decide to divorce? If and when they separate, how will the parents carry out their responsibilities to their child?
The child must be provided their basic needs, and parental responsibility does not end just because the marriage has ended. If one parent is granted sole custody, then that parent has the responsibility to provide the child with basic necessities such as housing, food, clothing, as well as guidance and emotional support.
The other parent, even though he does not have custody of the child, can still discharge his parental responsibility through the payment of child support.
What is Child Support?
Child support is the amount of money that a court orders one parent to pay to the other parent who has primary custody of the child, for the child’s benefit, and to provide for the child’s basic needs.
Child support payments are intended to meet the child’s basic needs like food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, and all the other costs that go into raising a child.
In California, the amount of child support that a parent has to pay is determined by a mathematical formula that is based on several factors including the income of both parents and the time they spend with the child.
Who pays child support?
Regardless of whether they are married or not, the father and the mother of the child both have the legal responsibility to support their biological children. The court can require them to pay child support regardless of their marital status.
If the child’s parents are not married, parentage must be established in order for the legal father to be determined. Once this is done and parentage is established, the biological father is responsible for supporting his child
If the parents are divorced, the amount of child support will be based on each parent’s financial responsibility according to the California Child Support Guideline formula.
What about a situation where one or both parents remarry? Will the new spouse of the custodial parent also have a responsibility to the child? Under California law, a stepparent is not required to support a stepchild unless he/she legally adopts the child. However, a stepparent’s income may cause a significant change in the child support requirements of his spouse.
When does Child Support end?
While parents have the duty to support their children, this duty is not perpetual. California law requires parents to pay child support only until a child turns 18 years old.
If at 18 years of age and the child is still a full-time high school student living with a parent, then child support terminates when the child turns 19 years old or graduates from high school, whichever comes first. In California, the obligation to pay child support also ends if a child marries, joins the military, is emancipated, or dies.
In the case of an incapacitated or disabled adult child, the court may order both parents to continue support if the said child cannot support himself or herself.
Enforcement of Duty to Support
The duty to support a child is an important responsibility that parents must fulfill. If a parent willfully fails to provide support to the child, the other parent, or the child by a guardian ad litem, may bring an action against the parent for support.
A parent who is found to have willfully failed to pay child support may be held in contempt of court. This is a quasi-criminal charge and carries both civil and criminal penalties. A person found guilty of contempt may be ordered to pay fines, perform community service, and/or serve time in jail. Take note that any motion for contempt for non-payment of child support can only be brought within three years from the date a payment was due.
In addition, a finding of failure to pay child support can cause a negative effect on the parent’s credit score, and may also cause liens to be placed on their property. Sonoma County Child Support Services can help parents collect delinquent child support.