In California, child support continues until the child turns 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school full time and living at home. Either parent can ask the court to award child support in the following cases:
- Legal separation
- Domestic violence restraining order (for married or unmarried parents)
- When a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children is filed
If the paying parent can't keep up with the child support payments because they lost their job, became injured or ill, or had a cut in hours, and they fall behind, they will have to pay interest on the balance in addition to what they owe.
Interest is added at a rate of 10% per year for support that was due on or after January 1, 1983. If you owe past-due child support, the court can have your wages garnished. In that case, you would have to pay more than your normal monthly support amount.
If you fail to pay child support, it can result in serious consequences, for example, your driver's license can be suspended, your tax refund can be intercepted, your bank accounts can be garnished, and you could be sent to jail.
Modifying Child Support
Either parent has the right to ask the court to modify the child support payments. It can make sense to modify child support if either parent has experienced changes with:
- Their income
- The amount of time the child spends with them
Usually, the paying parent seeks to reduce child support payments, while the receiving parent seeks to have it increased. In order to get the court to modify the child support payments, you will need to show that there has been a "significant change in circumstances."
If you are the paying parent and you cannot afford the amount of support that you've been ordered to pay, you continue to owe the full amount until you get a court order that allows it to be changed – called a downward modification.
Child support is not retroactive, so you cannot go back and get the arrears reduced; you can only make changes going forward.
Contact a Los Angeles divorce lawyer at Claery & Green, LLP to discuss your case for free.