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Child Support Laws in CaliforniaWhen divorce is imminent, one of the first concerns of the parties involved is usually child support laws. This is where the nightmare begins, right? It doesn’t have to be that way. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself as you traverse a divorce is get all the knowledge you can. Let’s take a look at child support laws and hopefully ease our minds a bit. At the very least, you will have a better idea of the big picture at work.

General Overview of Child Support Laws

In the state of California, child support is the amount of money that one or both parents can be ordered to pay for the cost of raising a child. The most apparent concern when it comes to child support is how much it’s going to cost. The amount is based on guidelines set forth by the state of California and is decided by a judge who then issues a child support order.

While this process is straightforward, it can be complicated by other aspects of the divorce process such as paternity, custody, etc. In order to get an estimate of how much one might be ordered to pay in a divorce settlement based on the state guidelines, you can use this calculator. Keep in mind, this is only an estimate of the amount you may or may not be ordered to pay in your divorce case.

How Child Support Works in California

The amount to be paid will be determined based income and the amount of time each parents spends with the child. Both parents are legally responsible for supporting the child.

Child support will continue until one or more of the following criteria are met:

  • The child turns 18 and graduates high school
  • The child turns 19
  • The child marries, dies, or joins the military

If the child is disabled, child support may be ordered for adult children who are unable to care for themselves.

Income Declarations

Each parent will be required by the court to fill out forms about their income. The judge will base the amount  he decides is necessary on:

  • Each parent’s “net disposable income”. This is the amount of  income after taxes, mandatory payments, and any other child support being paid.
  • ALL other amounts of income such as tips, disability, etc.

Each parent must report all of their income sources and expenses under penalty of perjury. They will also be required to provide thorough proof of these sources and expenses. The court also considers how much time each parents spends with the child. In cases where one parent spends less time, that parent will pay more child support.

Expenses Used to Calculate Child Support

These are the costs of raising a child that factor into the child support amount decided by the judge:

  • Food, clothing, shelter
  • Health insurance
  • Back payments with interest
  • Childcare
  • Unpaid medical bills
  • Travel cost for visitation
  • Extra activities such as sports, field trips, etc.

The final child support order and  amount to be paid will be based on all these factors.

Help With Child Support Laws

The good news is that there is free help available to help you navigate child support. Every county in California has a local child support agency (LCSA) to help you with establishing and enforcing your child support order.

The LCSA can help you with any child support service such as:

  • Opening a new case
  • Establishing who the parents of a child are
  • Locating parents defaulted on child support
  • Request medical support orders from the court
  • Enforce child support
  • Modify child support

The LSCA can’t help with issues that require litigation such as custody, visitation, divorce, etc.

If You Fall Behind on Child Support Payments

We would strongly discourage you from letting this happen as it will result in strict consequences. If you have any difficulty with your payments, we advise that you consult your lawyer for advice on how to avoid getting behind on your payments.

Once you are behind in child support payments, the amount owed begins to accrue interest as follows:

  • 10% per year for child support that was due on or after January 1, 1983
  • 7% per year for child support that was due before January 1, 1983

These amounts and rates cannot be affected by the court because they are set according to Federal Law.

You will continue to accrue interest for past-due amounts even if you’re on a payment plan to catch up on late payments, so it’s best to avoid this situation from the beginning.

Wrap Up

If you have more questions regarding child support laws in California, you should consult the LCSA in your county, consult with your lawyer, and/or visit this link for more information.

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