Child Support in California

Child support in California is the amount of money that a court orders one parent to pay to the other parent every month to provide support for their child. California provides guidelines for the calculation of child support which takes into consideration the ratio of time each parent spends with the children and each parent’s income. Under California law, child support payments usually continue until the child:

  • Marries or registers a domestic partnership
  • Dies
  • Is emancipated
  • Turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student, or turns 19, whichever occurs first.

Parents may agree to support a child for a longer period of time. If a child is disabled, the court may also order that both parents continue to support that child when he or she becomes an adult, if they are unable to support themselves.

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For matters of child support, California follows a statewide guideline which is generally calculated using a program called Dissomaster. It is based on the actual income of the parties and the amount of time each has physical custody of the children. Support is normally based on actual current income, but if a court finds that a spouse has voluntarily reduced income when employment at a higher level is available, support can be based on that spouse’s ability to earn income.

There are many variables that are taken into consideration when calculating guideline child support in California, and the process can be quite complex. Although parents can agree on a “non-guideline amount” between themselves, if parents can’t agree on child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation. The guideline calculation depends on:

  • Monthly earnings of each parent (or earning capability)
  • Amount of other income each parent receives
  • How many children the parents have together
  • How much time each parent spends with their children
  • Each parent’s tax filing status
  • Monthly support received for children from other relationships
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Mandatory union dues
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • Costs of daycare and uninsured healthcare costs
  • Other factors
Child support can also include the cost of special needs like traveling expenses for visitation, educational expenses, and other special needs. To access California’s guideline calculator, click here. To run Dissomaster calculations and obtain a formal Dissomaster report, contact our office.

Guideline support is not considered when both parties come to an agreement about a specific amount without court intervention. The courts will approve such an agreement under the following conditions:

  • The parties are fully informed of their rights concerning child support.
  • The amount is being agreed to without coercion or duress.
  • The needs of the children will be adequately met by this order.
  • Neither parent is receiving public assistance for these children and no application is pending.
  • No change of circumstances is needed to modify the order to guideline.

Child Support Services

You can seek a child support order through various legal venues such as divorce, legal separation, annulment, paternity, a domestic violence restraining order, or by special petition in certain circumstances.

If the parties agree on a support amount, they can file a Stipulation and Order in their case without having to go through a formal hearing. If the parent seeking support is receiving public assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF), the local Department of Child Support Services will automatically start a child support case against the other parent. This agency will also have to approve any order for support in a divorce or legal separation proceeding and they will collect your support for you.

Child support in California can always be modified. You can ask for a change in your child support amount when there is a change in circumstances. For example, if the amount of time one parent spends with the child changes, you can ask for a change in your child support. If one parties income dramatically increases or decreases, you can seek a modification of support. However, if the parties agreed to a child support amount below the guideline amount, you do not need a change of circumstances to change child support.
Every county has a local child support agency to help you obtain, change and collect child support at no charge. You can also file a support earnings withholding order to have child or spousal support payments collected out of the other party’s employment check.

**All motions or responses include a comprehensive supporting declaration.

Support, Motions and Contested ProceedingsPrice
Calculate support report
(3 variations)
$100
Ex Parte to Terminate Child Support at 18$250
Custody or Visitation Motion (RFO)$475
Custody, Visitation and/or Support Motion (RFO)$575
Emergency Custody or Visitation Motion (RFO) Includes request for temporary orders.$900 min. (includes RUSH processing)
Emergency Custody, Visitation, Support Motion Includes request for temporary orders.$975 min. (includes RUSH processing)
Custody, Visitation and Support Motion with Paternity Petition$625
Stipulation and Order$275
Motion for Bifurcation$575
Motion for Change of Venue$575
Restraining Order (no children)$400 min.
Restraining Order (with children)$575 min.

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