Divorce can add extra challenges to parenting. The financial responsibility to your child is a legal one required of both you and your ex-spouse, even after your separation. For this reason, it's important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorney at Furman & Zavatsky to make sure you understand your rights and obligations and that your child receives the support they need.
This includes California's child support laws. What specifically is the purpose and intent of these laws? Under California Family Code 4053, it describes that a parent's most important obligation is the support of their child, and the legal obligation is mutual, based on their financial ability and time with their child that is always based on the child's best interest.
It also states that a child should share a similar standard of living to the parents and that child support could improve the custodial parent's standard of living based on the concept it will most likely improve the child's standard of living as well. In other words, child support can reduce the difference in each parent's standard of living.
It's no secret that the cost of basic living in California is very expensive. Therefore, Los Angeles County child support orders need to address this fact. Under California family laws, it assumes the custodial parent already contributes a significant portion of their resources to their child.
California's child support laws are supposed to reduce conflict and lessen litigation, but it does not always work as designed. The most important issue you need to understand is that ALL Los Angeles Family Law Court judges have the same top priority when making decisions.
The child's best interest is always the number one priority. If you are seeking a divorce in Los Angeles County and anticipate being ordered to pay child support, you will probably have many questions. The most common is how much and how long to pay child support will be required.
Child support will terminate when the child turns 18 years old, except in cases where they are a full-time high school student and lives with a parent. In this situation, child support would terminate when they turn 19 years old or graduate from high school, whichever occurs first.
California child support will also terminate if the child gets married, joins the military, or dies. Contact our Los Angles divorce lawyers if you have any questions about child support. Now that we have discussed a general overview of California's child support laws let's examine the legal language on child support below.
Child Support Overview
The court will enforce financial obligations to your child with an order for child support. During a divorce proceeding, a parent must ask the court to establish paternity and make an order for child support. The amount is usually paid to the parent with primary custody of your child. The Child Support Guidelines calculation depends on:
- Income or the earning potential of each parent
- Amount of additional income of each parent
- Number of children the parents have together
- Amount of time each parent spends with their child
- Number of children from other relationships
- Health insurance
- Tax filing status of each parent
- Mandatory union dues or retirement contributions
- Daycare costs
- Other relevant factors
Child support intends to cover the child's basic needs including, but not limited to, housing, food and clothing, health insurance (including medical, dental, and vision), and education expenses. A request by either parent can also be made to the court for child support as part of one of the following situations:
- For married parents or domestic partnerships: Divorce, legal separation, or annulment
- For unmarried parents: Petition to Establish Parental Relationship
- For either: Domestic violence restraining order
- For parents who are married, have domestic partners, or have signed a voluntary Declaration of Paternity and do not want to become legally separated or divorced: Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
Our Los Angeles divorce attorneys can help you find out more about requesting support in your particular case or assist you with asking the court to possibly change the support as your situation changes (change in income, change in other parent's income, amount of time each parent spends with the child).
Length of Child Support
The duty of support continues until the child turns 18 and completes high school (or turns 19, whichever comes first). In California, child support also ends if any of the following circumstances with the child occur:
- Gets married
- Enlists in the military
- Emancipates under these conditions:
- the child is at least 14 years old
- does not want to live with parents
- has the ability to handle personal funds
- secures legal income
- the court determines emancipation is in the child's best interest
- Passes away
It is important to note that a parent cannot request that their child emancipates in order to avoid paying child support.
Continuing Child Support
The court does not limit a parent's ability to provide additional child support beyond the law's required timeline. A specific date may be chosen, such as reaching the age of 21, to support the child through college. This must be agreed upon in the original child support order, or the court will not require payment for education or other expenses past the age of 18.
A court may also consider continuing support if a child's disability or incapacity keeps them from earning enough money to be self-sufficient. A duty to continue support applies beyond the age of 18 in these cases of physical or mental disability equally to both parents to the extent of their ability.
If your child meets the requirements for child support to end, the paying parent may still owe money. Back payments are due, even if it takes several years past the age of 18 to fulfill them. Failure to pay the support owed has serious consequences. If a parent has the means to pay and is withholding that money, a court can find them in contempt of court, which is a serious offense possibly requiring jail time. In general, this method is only used after other enforcement attempts have failed because of the consequences associated with it.
Contact a Los Angeles Divorce Attorney
If you need a child support order against your ex-spouse or are the parent required to make child support payments, the best decision you can make is to consult with an experienced family law lawyer to understand what is required of you. You may need assistance not only during the process of divorce but also beyond, as family circumstances change over time.
An attorney can help you navigate the financial responsibility of both you and your ex-spouse to your child. The Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky have the experience you need to assist you with California child custody laws. Contact us today for a free consultation at 818-528-3471 to discuss the details of your case.