How Does Child Support Work in California?
One of the most common questions California lawyers get asked when talking to someone planning to divorce or separate is, “how does child support work in California?” People want to know how much they may end up paying before making the decision to end their relationship. And they should; you do not want to be asking how does child support work in California while you are in the midst of divorce. Otherwise, you may be in for a nasty shock.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to how child support works in California. It is often awarded on a case by case basis with many factors to consider. But in this article, we will attempt to explain the basics of how child support works in California, so you know what to expect.
Duration of Child Support in California
In most cases, those paying child support in California will continue to do so until the child turns 18 and graduates high school or turns 19, even if they do not graduate high school. There are some other circumstances that will halt child support payments in California:
- The child gets emancipated
- The child gets married
- The child joins the military
- The parents reunite
- The parent paying child support loses their job (temporarily halts child support payments)
If the child in question is disabled and does not have the means to take care of themselves, then the parent may have to continue paying child support long after the child turns 19.
Calculating Child Support Payments in California
Often when we are asked how does child support work in California, what we are really being asked is “how much child support will I have to pay?” Again, we wish there was an easy answer.
Child support payments are calculated by the court. The court will require the parent to pay child support as a percentage of their income. That percentage is calculated to take into account:
- The number of children the former couple share
- Income of the parent vs cost of living
- Income of the primary custody parent vs cost of living
- The cost of raising the children including education costs and extra-curricular activities.
- The custody split
- Household income and expenses if either parent live with a partner who also has kids or has kids in their new relationships
- Medical costs of the children and insurance
- Childcare expenses for both parents
It is important to note that the court will consider all of the income of both parents, including tips, wages, commission, rental income, stocks and other dividends, and government benefits. Often if the non-custodial parent is low income, they may not pay all that much in child support. The court does not want to create undue financial hardship for any of the parties involved. The court will also recalculate child support payments if either parent requests it in order to take into account new circumstances. If one of the parents takes a higher or lower-paying job, the child support payments will be recalculated. Similarly, if the households change or the expenses of one of the parents change, the child support payments may be recalculated.
If one of the parents loses their job, they can request child support payments be recalculated. Depending on the circumstances, the court may allow the parent to stop child support payments temporarily until they find a job. So, the answer to the question “how does child support work in California” is that it is different in every case.