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Understanding the Intricacies of California Child Support 

There are many details and complexities in understanding California’s child support systems. If you’re one of the approximate 35 million single parents, it’s important that you understand and take advantage of the system requirements.


The information we provide will help you understand your rights and responsibilities of child support whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent.

Taking Care of the Kids

What’s It All About?

The California Child Support system is more than making sure that non-custodial parents financially support their children. Statistics reveal that at least 35% of single parent families are below the poverty line and those custodial parents who receive child support payments have a reduction in their poverty levels and equally as important, non-custodial parents tend to take more active involvement in their children’s lives.


Once upon a time, many non-custodial parents successfully dodged their child support payments. That has changed drastically, so if you are non-custodial parent who has divorced their spouse, expect to pay child support. And, if you are a custodial parent, you are obligated to receive child support payments from your non-custodial former spouse.


California law requires that non-custodial parents pay child support until their child (children) reach the age of 18, or marry, die or become emancipated. Additionally, if a child turns 19 and is a full time high school student, child support must be paid, as well as, an adult disabled child who is unable to earn a living is entitled to ongoing child support.

Child Support – How Much Can I Expect to Pay or Receive?

California has a ‘’guideline’’ for child support payments that is a complex mathematical formula based on several factors, such as each parent’s gross income, percentage of time each parent spends with the child (children), available tax deductions, child care costs, parent’s tax status, plus other factors.


This guideline is not set in stone and the courts may add or subtract the guidelines set forth in the Family Code, such as:

  • Non-custodial parent has an extraordinarily high income that exceeds the needs of the child (children), or

  • The child (children) has special medical needs, or other type needs, that require more money than the guidelines indicate.


Additionally, the non-custodial parent may be required to pay in full, or part, of mandatory add-ons the Court is required to order, such as:

  • Child care costs related to the custodial parent’s employment training or employment,

  • Reasonable uninsured health care costs for child (children).


Discretionary add-ons the Court may require include:

  • Costs related to educational or other special needs of the child (children),

  • Travel expenses for visitations.


Generally, add-ons are divided equally, but the California Family Code provides a section which allows the Court to allocate payment according to the net-spending income of each parent. This is particularly true if the non-custodial parent is paying spousal support.


Paying premiums for the child’s (children’s) health insurance is always an issue and either or both parents are required to maintain the insurance for their minor child (children) if it is available at no cost or reasonable cost.

How Do I Go About Getting Child Support Payments?

Once a petition is in place to terminate the marriage, a parent may request that the Court order temporary child support for the children born during the marriage.


If the parents are not married, paternity must be established before the Court can order child support. Hospitals are now required to provide unmarried parents an opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing a ‘’Voluntary Declaration of Paternity,’’ which can then be used for the basis of custody, visitation or support.

Now That I Have Child Support Payments, How will the Payments Be Enforced?

Every time the California Court issues a child support Order, it must issue a ‘’Wage Assignment Order’’ that directs the payor’s employer to deduct child support payment amounts from wages and pay it directly to the payee account. 


If your child support payments are not being enforced and are in arrears, here are some of your options: 

  • If you live in Los Angeles County, you should be aware that it has one of the weakest child collection records in the state. Retaining an attorney or contacting the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) may be helpful.

  • For payments in arrears, you can request that the Court hold the payor parent in contempt and if non-payment was knowing and willful, the payor parent can be fined or even jailed.

    • You may also bring an ‘’Order to Show Cause,’’ which requests Court determination on the amount of arrearages.

    • You can also petition a ‘’Write of Execution’’ which can be used against bank accounts.

  • In cases of lack of child support payments or a self-employed payor, the Court may order the payor parent to deposit up to one year’s child support payments in an interest-bearing account as security. 

And, A Couple Things You May Find Helpful

  • Concerned about the payor’s income? You can initiate a ‘’Request for Production of an Declaration After Judgment’’ and a ‘’Income and Expense Declaration’’ which can provide needed information.

  • Taxes? Child support is generally considered under state and Federal law to NOT be tax-deductible to the parent paying such support, so the parent receiving support does not have to report support payments as income on his or her tax returns.

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