5 Common Child Support Myths in California

When it comes to family law matters that are obscured by rumor and misinformation, few are obfuscated by such myths as child support.

Perhaps second only to child custody, child support is among the most hotly contested issues both within and beyond the courtroom. As a result, many misconceptions about child support exist. The purpose of this blog is to identify several of these myths and explain why they aren’t what many have been led to believe.

Myth 1 – Only Mothers Get Child Support

Among the most broadly believed myths about child support in California is that only mothers get it. If you’re a father who gets custody, as the myth goes, your child’s mother won’t be required to pay child support.

To be clear, this simply isn’t true. The basic premise of this myth is that the judicial system treats mothers and fathers, as women and men, differently. Although this may have been the case in bygone eras, the law – as it is today – prohibits judges from considering the sex of either parent in a child support or custody matter.

Myth 2 – “The Child Isn’t Mine, So I Won’t Have to Pay Child Support”

A myth that men commonly have when it comes to child support is that their obligation to pay is tied to their biological connection to the child. Men often believe that if a child born into their marriage isn’t related to them, perhaps due to an affair, they will not be legally obligated to support that child if they divorce.

The reality is that child support is tied to paternity, which can be established irrespective of a child’s factual biological relationship to a man. If a child is born into a marriage, for example, the husband is presumed to be the child’s legal father – even if a DNA test later determines that someone else fathered the child.

Regardless of whether a man’s paternity is assumed or legally established in court, he is considered to be legally responsible for financially supporting his child.

Myth 3 – Child Support Payments Are Set in Stone

Many believe that once a judge orders child support, the amount determined is set in stone. This can be concerning for both mothers and fathers for various reasons, so it might be comforting (or alarming) to know that child support payments can be modified.

Child support is based upon a variety of factors, but each parents’ individual income plays a significant role in how much the supporting parent pays. If either loses a job, gets a raise, or experiences another change in their income, a modification of the original child support order may be necessary.

Such a modification doesn’t happen automatically. If you are paying child support and lose your job, for example, you are still required to pay child support at the original amount until you successfully petition for a modification.

Myth 4 – I Can Get Rid of Child Support Debt with Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy can be a great way to eject an unmanageable amount of consumer debt, but unpaid child support isn’t considered consumer debt. The only way to get rid of child support debt is to pay it off.

Myth 5 – Child Support Always Ends When a Child Turns 18

When someone turns 18, they are legally considered an adult in the eyes of the law. More importantly, they are no longer considered a child. This leads many to believe that they simply don’t have to pay or aren’t entitled to receive child support once this birthday happens, but this just isn’t so.

Children sometimes turn 18 when they are still full-time high school students living with a parent or guardian. Under these circumstances, the receiving parent is still entitled to child support payments until the child graduates high school or turns 19, whichever comes first.