Understanding California Child Support Guidelines
In the state of California, both parents are legally required to support their children financially. This is to ensure that the child has secure housing, clothing, nutrition, and medical care. How much and who is required to pay child support depends on many factors, including the parents' respective incomes, the custody agreement, child-rearing costs, healthcare costs, and any special needs associated with the child.
State uniform guidelines for calculating child support are found in the California Family Code. The equation for determining child support amounts can be found in § 4055. Though the courts use this equation to help them determine how much a parent must pay in child support, the equation does not represent a hard and fast rule. The guideline amount can be rebutted in cases where the courts determine that the amount determined by the guideline equation is inappropriate or unfair for a given case.
According to California law, the courts adhere to several guiding principles when making child support determinations, including:
- The best interests of the children are the state's top priority
- It is a parent's first and primary obligation to support their minor children according to their circumstances and station in life
- Both parents are mutually responsible for supporting their children
- Each parent should support their children according to their ability
- Each parent's income and level of responsibility will be taken into account when determining child support
For the full list of California's child support guiding principles, review § 4053.
How to Hold Your Child's Other Parent Responsible for Child Support
When a child's parents are married or together, they generally do not need an official child support order from the courts. Instead, they share a combined household, and they work together to ensure that their child's needs are met. However, if you have separated or divorced your child's other parent, you will need an official child support order from the courts. The process of petitioning for child support can be complicated. It is recommended that you work with a skilled attorney familiar with how child support is handled in California, like ours at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich.
Applying for Child Support Services with the State
To establish child support for your children, you or their other parent must request a court order. Child support orders are often created as part of the divorce and custody process. You can also request child support as part of other family law cases, including legal separation, annulment, and domestic violence restraining order cases. Married couples and those in a domestic partnership can also petition the courts for a child support order without going through a divorce, legal separation, or annulment.
A parent or legal guardian also has the option to open a child support case through California Child Support Services. You do not need to have an existing court order to open a child support case with California Child Support Services. The benefits of opening a case with California Child Support Services are that they provide neutral assistance with the process, including facilitating payments and keeping records. To learn more about California Child Support Services, click here.
Riverside County also provides child support services. To access Riverside County's Child Support Services page, click here.
Do I Need to Establish Paternity Before I Can Petition for Child Support?
In some cases, you may need to establish paternity legally before requesting child support. This is most often the case in situations where a child's parents were not married at the time of the child's birth or in cases where there is disputed paternity. There are a couple of different ways to establish paternity, including filing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and genetic testing.
Additionally, the courts may also consider the conduct of the alleged father when deciding on paternity. If the purported father behaved as if the child in question was his (such as telling other people or the child that they are the child's father and/or financially supporting the child), the courts may assign paternity based on these actions.
No matter how you go about establishing paternity for your child, it would be best if you worked with an experienced attorney. Paternity and child support cases can be very complicated, and having the support of a skilled lawyer can be invaluable. Furthermore, if you are establishing paternity as part of a child custody request or another family law matter, your attorney can help you manage your case from start to finish.
Our law firm has represented many clients dealing with a wide range of complicated paternity and child custody matters. Reach out to us today for guidance on your case.