• Child Support Laws in California - Is Child Support Mandatory?

Child Support Laws in California – Is Child Support Mandatory?

Child support is a commonly disputed issue in a divorce or paternity action. On the negative side, some parents proactively seek to limit the non-custodial parent’s timeshare.  This action is taken to get more child support. Some parents, however, try to game the system by under reporting their income. This ploy is in attempt to limit the amount of support they have to pay. Either way, paying child support is mandatory in California, with one exception. Read on to learn more about child support laws in California.

Overview of Child Support Laws in California

Under child support laws in California, both parents are required to provide financial help to their minor child. To begin with, each parent’s contribution to the support of their child is based on the parent’s circumstances and station in life. Accordingly, the child support laws in California set up child support guidelines. These guidelines are based on each parent’s income and the amount of time he/she spends with their child.

“A People’s Choice helped me change our no-support child support order to guideline support after I unexpectedly lost my job. Thankfully my ex and I were able to agree to change our current order to the California guidelines.” Allison J.
“A People’s Choice ran the report, provided us with the numbers and we both signed an agreement to change our order. So happy to have found A People’s Choice whose helpful staff made the process super easy for me!” Allison J.

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California Child Support Guidelines

At the present time, when determining child support, the court is required to consider the following factors under California child support laws:

  • The parent’s gross income from all sources
  • The children the parties have together
  • Each parent’s tax filing status
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Union dues and retirement amounts paid
  • Child care and healthcare expenses

The child support laws in California  and specifically Family Code section 4055 outline the formula required in determining guideline support. Child support is paid until a child’s 18th birthday unless there are extenuating circumstances such as a child with disabilities.

Child support laws in California provide for special circumstances that give judge’s flexibility when calculating a guideline child support. In other words, a court may deviate from guideline support when considering the net disposable income of each parent. For example, if a parent suddenly earns less money, but is capable of earning more, the court may consider the parent’s earning potential when calculating child support. Then again, parents can also agree to pay more money for child support above the guideline amount or even agree to pay less.

In the event that a couple cannot agree on child support, a party can file a motion for temporary child support order during the divorce. In other words, the temporary order will allow a parent to collect child support until the divorce is finalized and a permanent order is made. A permanent order will be entered along with the divorce judgment.

Child Support Add-Ons

The child support laws in California also provide add-on allowances when calculating child support.  For example, child care and healthcare qualify as mandatory child support add-ons. In this regard, the court will order for each parent to pay half of child care expenses necessary for the custodial parent to be able to work.

Retroactive Child Support Payments

Keep in mind, retroactive child support payments may be awarded if a non-custodial parent fails to provide child support during a specified period. For example, a request for retroactive child support may be requested to be effective once a motion or request for child support is filed. In other words, the court can issue an order for child support with payments commencing earlier than the date the actual order is made. The date for retroactive payments to begin can be as early as the day the non-custodial parent is served with notice of a child support action.

Tax Consequences of Child Support

Unlike spousal support which is a tax write off for the payor and taxable income for the payee, child support payments are not taxable income. As a result, the person paying the child support cannot write off these payments on their income taxes. On the other hand, the person receiving support  does not have to report child support income on their income taxes.

A child support order will typically include a provision about which parent can claim the child for tax purposes, a point often overlooked. Generally speaking, the person entitled to claim the child as a dependent is the person with more custody time. Although this may be true, the parties, between themselves, can agree to something completely different. For example, often the parties will agree to alternate claiming a child or children on their taxes. This allows one parent to claim the child one year, and the other parent the next. Keep in mind, however, that the child support laws in California considers the tax deduction. Accordingly, the guideline support calculator considers this when calculating the guideline figures. Releasing the right to the claim the child as a dependent with less custody could result in a higher monthly support award.

Is Child Support Mandatory?

When child-support is in dispute, child support laws in California require the court to issue an order for child support. On the other hand, when child support is not in dispute, the parties themselves can mutually agree to waive child support. Keep in mind however, that a child support waiver is not permanent. Either party can always go back to court to ask the court to change and increase the order to a guideline child support order.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about child support laws in California. We can give you an estimated amount of how much child support you may receive or be required to pay. We can also help you get a child support order or change an existing child support order. Call us today at 800-747-2780.

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By |2018-01-18T15:46:10+00:00July 9th, 2017|Family Law|2 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.

2 Comments

  1. Genera Earl March 20, 2018 at 2:16 am - Reply

    In California is there a “cap” on the amount of child support a noncustodial parent has to pay per month… Understanding that it’s based on income etc… But is there a cap on the amount in any certain bracket?

    • Sandy McCarthy March 20, 2018 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      I am not personally aware of any “cap”.

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