California has a strong public policy in favor of adequate support, and both parents are equally responsible for providing financially for his or her children. The California Family Code has established guiding principles for courts issuing child support, stating that a parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life. Another guiding principle is that children should share in the standard of living of both parents, so child support may, therefore, be ordered to improve the standard of living of one household.
Who Can Request Child Support?
Either parent can request child support orders by filing one of the following cases:
- Divorce, Legal Separation, or Annulment (for parents who are married);
- Petition to Establish Parental Relationship or “paternity” case (for parents who are not married and have not signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity);
- Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (for parents who are not married and have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity).
Factors Affecting Child Support in California
California has a statewide uniform “Guideline” for calculating monetary support according to a complex formula largely based on each parent’s income and custodial time with the child. The Guideline figure is automatically presumed to be correct, and the court is not authorized to order payments above or below Guideline except in very limited situations, in which case the court may apply a “hardship deduction” to the calculation. The Guideline calculation generally depends on:
- Each parent’s annual income or earnings
- The number of children the parents have together
- The amount of time the children spend with each parent (timeshare)
- The actual tax filing status of each parent (single, head of household, etc.)
- Other support paid for children of other relationships
- Health insurance expenses and other healthcare costs not covered by insurance
- Mandatory union dues and mandatory retirement contributions
- Childcare costs
In calculating a parent’s net disposable income, a party may request the court to subtract a “hardship deduction” from his or her gross annual income if the parent is experiencing extreme financial hardship due to justifiable expenses resulting from the following:
- Extraordinary healthcare expenses or catastrophic losses for which the parent is responsible for paying
- The minimum basic living expenses of the parent’s natural or adopted children from another relationship who reside with the parent
The hardship deduction cannot exceed the amount of support the parent pays for the children involved in the current case.
Once child support orders are made, they can be modified anytime there is a change in circumstances relevant to the calculation. Most often, these orders are modified when a parent changes employment and now receives more or less income, or when orders are modified such that the parents’ timeshare has changed from the figure previously entered in the child support calculation.
It is important to note that if you are the parent ordered to pay child support, you must still pay the full amount listed in your current order until you get the order changed. Failure to make court-ordered payments, even if you lose your job and are receiving no income, may result in an order for arrearages. Unpaid arrearages are charged interest at a rate of 10% per year on the entire unpaid balance.
Contact Our Los Angeles Child Support Attorney
If you are involved in a family law matter involving child support in Los Angeles County, it is highly recommended that you engage with a family law attorney familiar with the factors affecting child support. The legal team of MacKay & Martin, LLP has the knowledge and skill necessary to negotiate or litigate a fair and reasonable child support outcome given your particular circumstances.