Under California law, both parents are expected to financially support
their child, even after a legal separation or divorce. In the event that
a couple splits up or files for divorce, one of the parents will be expected to pay
child support to the other parent, even if they are no longer living together as a couple.
Technically, child support is ordered by the court and one or both parents
can be ordered to pay it depending on who the child lives with most of
the time. The child support is supposed to help with the child’s
living expenses, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
Both parents are equally responsible for financially supporting their child.
However, the California courts do not enforce this duty until a legal
action is filed with the court and it makes an order for child support.
If you recently separated from your child’s other parent and you
want child support, you will have to ask the court to make an order for
child support. How this action proceeds will depend upon whether you are
married to the other parent or not.
In California, child support is paid until a child turns 18, or until 19
if the teenager is still in high school, living at home with their parent,
and unable to support themselves.
As parents know, children generally graduate high school when they are
18 or 19, it all depends upon their birthday and at what age they started
kindergarten and whether they were held back at any point while attending school.
Child Support and Family Law Cases
These days when parents split, the children can live with their mother
or father, especially since we have more stay at home fathers than ever
before. That said, either parent can ask the judge to order child support.
Child support is ordered in the following types of family law cases:
In addition to the above, child support can be ordered when parents file a
Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children. These petitions are filed by unmarried parents who signed a voluntary
Declaration of Paternity, and by registered domestic partners and married parents who do not want
to legally separate or divorce.
Asking the Court for Child Support
If you wish to have a child support order, you or the other parent will
need to ask for such an order from the court. How you go about doing this
will depend on whether you already have a family law case, or if you are
starting a new case (this is the first time).
Are you married to your child’s parent? Or, do you have a domestic
partnership? The type of case you start will depend on your answers to
If you are married to your child’s other parent, or if you’re
registered domestic partners, you can ask for child support in: 1) an
annulment, 2) as part of a legal separation, or 3) as part of a divorce case.
You can also ask for child support in a
domestic violence case where you have asked for a domestic violence restraining order against
your child’s other parent. If you are asking for a restraining order,
you want to make sure that when you fill out the restraining order papers,
that you’re also requesting a child custody order.
If you are
not married to your child’s other parent, you can ask for child support in a
paternity case. In a paternity case, the court may request a DNA test
from the presumed father to ensure that he is the child’s biological father.
DNA tests are usually necessary when a presumed father has not signed a
Declaration of Paternity, or when the presumed father is not sure that he is the child’s father.
When You Don’t Want a Divorce
Perhaps you are married but you do not want to get legally separated or
divorced. In that case, you will start another type of family law case called a
Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children. This type of action allows the court to order child support, even though
you are not asking for a legal separation or divorce at this point in time.
How is child support calculated?
California follows a statewide formula when it comes to “calculating”
how much child support is to be paid. If the parents do not agree on a
monthly child support amount, a judge will determine the child support
based on the guideline calculation.
The child support amount is based on a number factors, such as:
- Each parent’s income, or earning capacity,
- The number of children the parents have together,
- How much time each parent has with their children,
- Each parent’s tax filing status,
- Any children from other relationships,
- Childcare and uninsured healthcare costs for the children, and
- Other relevant factors.
Since raising children involve other expenses, a child support order may
address other financial issues or obligations, such as a child’s
educational needs, childcare, uninsured medical expenses, who pays for
travel-related expenses while the child visits the other parent, and other
Child Support Modifications
Can child support be modified? Yes, sometimes it can be modified upwards
or downwards. Usually, for a parent to have the court change the monthly
child support obligation, the petitioning party must be able to show a
“significant change in circumstances.”
A significant change in circumstances would be related to a change in a
parent’s income, a change in the other parent’s income, or
a change in how much time each parent spends with the child.
If you are interested in asking for a child support order, or having an
existing order changed, please
contact a Los Angeles child support lawyer from Claery & Green, LLP.