Child Support in California

In California, each parent is obligated to support an unmarried child who is a full-time high school student and not self- supporting.  This obligation continues until the time the child completes 12th grade or reaches age 19 (whichever occurs first).

Child support is based on each parent’s income, from all sources, and the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent.  The community and separate property of each parent can also be considered.  The court may consider income from all sources, including:

  • Employment wages
  • Employment benefits
  • Tips
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Self-employment/business income Spousal support received
  • Income from a trust
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Disability and workers’ compensation
  • Interest and dividends
  • Annuities
  • Rental Income
  • Social Security benefits
  • Payments or credit due from any source including lottery and prize winnings

There are other factors that could also be considered in determining support, such as, each parent’s standard of living.

In California, the guideline formula is typically followed by the courts and it is not common for a judge to award an amount below the guideline.

A child support modification request could be considered if there is a “significant” change in circumstances, for example:  a change that would alter the current payment level by at least 20%.     This means that if either parent had a change in their financial circumstances, such as the loss of a job,  they may be eligible for a child support modification.

There are some child related expenses that parents are not “required” to pay for, but may agree to.  A common example is private school or college tuition. If both parties agree, this can be addressed in the settlement agreement.  An experienced divorce financial specialist can help you to identify child related expenses, as well as other financial issues, that you may want to consider in your settlement agreement.

This information is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of all of the issues that should be considered in regard to child support, and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should consult with a family law attorney before making any decisions regarding child support

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