Child support payments normally need to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the parent with whom the child or children are living or with whom they are primarily living.
A parent seeking child support need not have an attorney, especially if the parties can agree on a reasonable amount that is not significantly different from the guidelines. Since the issue generally arises during a divorce proceeding, though, attorneys are usually involved. There are also circumstances where it may be difficult without legal assistance to determine the income to be used for child support.
California law has set forth minimum amounts of child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent. A judge adds up the parties’ net monthly incomes and then calculates the percentage of income of the non-custodial parent, which is multiplied by the level of welfare payment for each child in the household. This is only a minimum level and a paying parent will generally pay over that amount.
The payments are made until the child is 18, or until the child graduates from high school or becomes 19, whichever first occurs. If the child is mentally or developmentally disabled, or physically disabled, the support payments could continue.
The parents can agree on an amount as well so long as it is approved by the court and is in line with the established guidelines.
The court will consider a number of factors along with the parents’ incomes. For example, the court will look at the number of children, the time spent by each parent with them, their tax filing status, health insurance, mandatory union and retirement contributions, daycare expenses, if there are support payments to children of another relationship, educational expenses, and expenses for special needs.
Also, if the court feels that the non-custodial parent has the ability to earn more, it will take that into account regardless if the parent is earning up to their potential or not.
A parent’s income can include payments from any number of sources including commissions, bonuses, disability, social security, unemployment, or any other sources.
The parties can agree on a method of payment, but if the court must enforce it, it can force payments by bank levies, wage withholding, garnishment of unemployment, disability or workers’ compensation benefits, and property liens. Payments are made to the California child support collections agency for distribution.
A parent who is in arrears on support payments could have his or driver’s license suspended or denied, or face denial of a passport..
Child support payments can only be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances such as a major change in either parent’s income.
If a child is spending substantial amounts of time with either parent that is different than when the original order was issued, this could alter the amount as well. Also, if the child becomes older and more independent or needs more support for school or for a medical condition, the court may consider this a sufficient change in circumstances.