Both parents are mutually responsible for the financial support of their children. It doesn’t matter if the parents never married or never lived together. A child support order can be entered when a couple divorces or legally separates, or the order can be entered in a paternity proceeding. If you’re contemplating divorcing the parent of your child, or if you want to file an action to establish paternity, contact a child support law firm in Los Angeles, CA, to protect your interests.
Like most states, California determines a parent’s child support obligation using statewide guidelines. Factors that go into determining the amount a parent owes in child support include the following:
The guidelines look at disposable net income. It’s the parent’s income after taxes, health premiums, union dues, and support for children from other relationships. A parent’s income isn’t just what he or she earns at a job. It includes things like unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, dividends, interest on investments, self-employment earnings, and lottery or prize winnings.
The guidelines include in its calculation expenses for a child’s food, clothing, housing, education, and other essentials.
All these numbers are placed on a worksheet, and a state calculator figures the amount of child support owed. The higher your income, the more you pay, and the less time you spend with a child, the more you pay.
Each parent is responsible for a child’s support until the child reaches 18 years of age and finishes high school, turns 19 years old, or the child marries or is legally free of his or her parents, such as when a child joins the military. If the child is disabled, the child support obligation continues.
Some factors can justify a deviation from the amount of child support set by the guidelines. For example, a parent’s income may be so high that the amount owed exceeds the child’s needs, or a child may have special medical or other needs requiring more than the amount set by the guidelines.
A parent can be required to contribute to certain expenses of the child. A judge must order parents to contribute to the reasonable uninsured health care costs of the child. A judge may also require a parent to contribute to the educational needs or extracurricular activities of the child or to travel expenses to facilitate visitation by the other parent.
The child support obligation can be modified if the circumstances of a parent change. For example, a parent may lose his or her employment or receive a pay cut. In that case, the parent must ask the court for a modification to reduce the amount of child support. Until the court modifies the amount, the parent remains responsible for the child support obligation.
Not paying child support or falling behind on payments has consequences. Child support arrears begin to mount, and the delinquent parent gets hit with interest. A parent’s wages can be garnished, and his or her tax refund can be intercepted. If a parent has the ability to pay child support and fails to do so, he or she can be found in contempt and jailed.
Child support matters can get complicated. If you’re contemplating a divorce or separation, or if the parent of your child is not making his or her child support payments, contact Teresa Beyers, an experienced child support lawyer.