When parents separate, a court will typically order one parent to pay monthly financial support to the custodial parent to help cover the child's costs. Support payments are usually made until the child turns 18. Couples who were not married may need to ask the court to make an order establishing paternity and an order for child support. Once an order is made for support, a court can legally enforce it.
How is child support calculated?
Like many states, California has a specific formula to determine how much is owed in child support each month.
The calculation depends on certain factors, including:
- Health insurance expenses
- Tax filing status of each parent
- How much money the parents earn or can earn
- The number of children
- How much time each parent spends with their children
- Mandatory union dues
- Mandatory retirement contributions
- Costs of sharing daycare and uninsured healthcare costs
Child support orders can also require the parents to share the costs of the following:
- Children's educational needs
- Child care for a parent to work or acquire work training
- Traveling costs for visitation from one parent to another
- Children's reasonable healthcare expenses
Courts base their support figure on a parent's net disposable income, meaning the income available after all taxes and deductions.
The court will also determine how much time each parent will spend with their children by comparing the amount of time each parent has primary physical responsibility for their child. This has a direct effect on support payments since the support will decrease as time share increases.
What if I fail to pay?
You may be forced to pay interest on child support payments if you fall behind. Courts can order wage-garnishments to pay for backed child support but interest will continue to be added to your balance.
If it is determined that you have the ability to pay child support but refuse to do so, you can be found in contempt of court and may face time in jail. This is usually only done when all other means of having you pay your court-ordered support fail.