Child Support

Do I Need a Lawyer For My Child Support Case?


Under California Family Code section 3900, both parents have a duty to support their minor children until at least the age of 18. There are times the requirement is extended, such as when a child is disabled. A support obligation may also continue until the age of 19 if the child is still in high school and/or unmarried. The code dictates that minor children must be supported “in the manner suitable to the child’s circumstances.”

How to Get a Child Support Order

Whether you are the parent seeking support or the one being asked to pay it, if you’re about to start on a child support case you have several options for handling it. You can contact a local child support agency, hire a family law attorney, or use the services of a family court law facilitator. 

California Code Section 4053 sets out a mandatory formula the court must take into account regarding child support.

  • Both parents have a mutual obligation to support their child.
  • The obligation is based on each parent’s income, time with the child, and ability to pay.
  • Child support may also improve a custodial parent’s standard of living if it improves the child’s standard. This also reduces the disparity between each parent’s standard.
  • There is a presumption that the parent who has the majority parenting time already contributes significant resources to the child’s care.

California’s child support guidelines are meant to reduce conflict between parents and decrease the need for litigation. Above all, they are designed to protect a child’s best interests.

Whichever method you choose for obtaining an order, you will need to supply the court with certain information and documents.

How to Start the Process

Child support cases often, but not always, start during divorce proceedings. Paternity actions are also common. No matter who handles the process, it all begins with a “request for order.” An accurate income and expense declaration must also be included. 

While child support agreements must meet certain legal guidelines (and must gain the approval of child support services, if involved), the court will generally allow parents to create their own agreement if it’s in the interest of the child. 

Keep in mind that if you use Child Support Services to help you obtain a support order, it may prolong the process to obtain the final signed order.

Do You Need a Family Law Attorney?

It is certainly possible to handle a request for child support without the services of an attorney. But California family law can be complicated. An experienced family lawyer can help ensure:

  • Your child or children get the financial support they need.
  • Your financial standing is correctly represented in court.
  • You’re adequately represented for a modification or if you get behind in making court ordered payments.

One of the greatest benefits to working with a family law attorney is she or he is knowledgeable about the most recent changes to the California Family Code. For example, in 2019 there were important changes made relating to parental duty and a child’s right to be supported in light of a parent’s earning capacity. 

The California courts consider many variables when calculating a child support order. Even if both parents agree in advance on the amount of child support, the court will apply conditions like the needs of the children being adequately met. 

A child support agreement can have far-reaching implications for your child and should not be taken lightly. Many family law attorneys offer a courtesy consultation and the time invested in one can be very well worth helping you decide how to proceed.

Can California Child Support be Changed Without Going to Court?


In California, a change in child support must be approved by the court but it is possible to modify your child support order without stepping foot inside a court room. Parents may come to an agreement outside the courtroom, but they will still need to file a stipulation or request a change to the original order by filing a motion for modification with the court.

Child Support in California

Parents in California have a legal obligation to financially support their children, typically through the age of maturity (age 18). Sometimes a situation arises where the parent ordered to pay support cannot or does not want to continue paying. Some parents simply stop making the payments altogether. 

California law does not look kindly on parents who fail to make their child support payments or who take it upon themselves to make a change in those payments without approval of the court or the person receiving support. If a change is required in child support due to a life event or situation, the law requires the paying parent follow proper legal procedures. If you do not have your order changed properly, this could mean financial ramifications for you down the road including losing your drivers license or passport.

Reasons for a Child Support Modification

California courts recognize there are many reasons why a child support order might need to be changed. The basis for modification is often referred to as a “change in circumstances.”

  • One or both parents has had a change in income.
  • A parent has lost their job.
  • One parent has been incarcerated.
  • There is now another child from another relationship.
  • How much time the child spends with each parent has changed significantly.
  • Costs for the child’s current healthcare, education, and/or childcare have increased.

The court will also consider a modification when any of the factors used to calculate child support have changed.

It’s crucial that anyone who anticipates or has a change in circumstances let the original family court know immediately that they need the child support order modified. If you’re the parent unable to make payments, ignoring the situation can have serious, negative legal consequences.

How to Get a Child Support Order Modified

You have several options for starting the modification process: contact a local child support agency, hire a family law attorney, or use the services of a family court law facilitator. No matter who you choose to ask for assistance, you’ll need the following information when requesting a modification

  • Current income and expenses.
  • Proof of childcare expenses.
  • Medical insurance.
  • Unemployment benefits.
  • Retirement income.
  • Disability information such as SSI, SDI, and SSA.
  • Jail or prison status, if applicable.
  • Current and proposed custody and visitation arrangements.

California courts generally believe a modification is in order when the change is either 20% or $50, whichever is less. Keep in mind that if the request is approved, the court will not apply the change to outstanding back payments. The new amount applies only to future support payments unless you agree otherwise.

If you and the other parent can amicably agree on the changed amount, you can sign an agreement or stipulation and submit it to the court for approval. If you cannot come to an agreement, the court will set a hearing date at which time the judge will review the request and, if she or he agrees with the changes, issue a new order.

Child support is ordered to ensure that children are taken care of after their parents no longer live together. There are many valid reasons for seeking a change in child support including the loss of a job, serious injury, or a change household income. It can be a complicated process, especially when the parents do not agree. A great way to start, even if you have reached an agreement, is to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process.

How Can I Impute Income To The Other Parent?


Under California law, both parents are equally responsible for the financial support of their children. When computing how much child support is owed or received, the court considers each parent’s income to be a key factor. Some parents choose to deliberately reduce their income to avoid the responsibility of paying support, or to increase the amount of support the other parent is ordered to pay.

Unfortunately, the children become the victims of this behavior. The court is invested in doing what is in the best interests of a child, so often it will attribute – or impute – income to one or both parents before ordering support.

Imputed Income Defined

If the court imputes income to one or both parents it is, in effect, saying that is the amount the parent could be earning. The court then bases its award of child support on that income, not what the parent claims to be earning. Judges do this to make sure children are receiving an amount that ensures their needs are met – and to prevent a parent avoiding child support altogether. For example, if a parent up until the divorce has been earning $75,000 per year and then suddenly claims they’re earning minimum wage, the court will ask for information to determine if the decrease was due to a parent trying to minimize his or her child support obligation.

When Courts Impute Income

If the court finds that the parent ordered to pay child support voluntarily quit work or deliberately lowered their income, the court may decide to ignore that change and use the most recent amount ($75,000 in our example) they were earning. The order for child support would then be based on that figure. California family courts look at three main factors when determining if income imputation is called for:

  • The ability of the unemployed or underemployed parent to earn income.
  • The opportunity for the unemployed or underemployed parent to earn income.
  • The willingness of the unemployed or underemployed parent to earn income.

If the court finds the parent has a legitimate case of job loss or pay reduction, it will not necessarily or immediately impute income to him or her.

How Do Courts Arrive at an Imputed Income Amount?

Courts look to a parent’s “earning capacity” when deciding how much income to impute:

  • Willingness to work is decided by looking at whether the parent is looking for a job, sending out his or her resume, or going for job interviews.
  • Opportunity to work looks at what, if any, appropriate jobs are available in the area.
  • Ability is usually determined by looking at a parent’s educational level, works skills, and employment history.

As evidence of a parent’s ability and opportunity to work, the court will look at various evidence.For example, it may use a vocational expert’s report or testimony and/or the most recent salary the parent was earning. If the court cannot arrive at an amount using these methods, it may impute minimum wage.

If you’re divorcing and believe your spouse should be imputed income for the purposes of child support, you may want to consult with an experienced and qualified California family law attorney to help you better understand your options.

Is All My Income Considered In Child Support Calculation?


In California, child support is mandated by law, and every child is entitled to financial support from both parents. If the parents divorce, child support is generally required. Once the court orders child support, it must be paid or there are serious consequences, including possible jail time. Child support can also be required in cases where the paying parent has no visitation rights with the child or children.

Determining Income for Child Support in California

The court cannot enforce child support payments until it makes an order for support. When parents separate, one of them must ask the court to make both an order establishing paternity and an order for child support. Once granted, the court can also award retroactive child support to the date the petition was filed.

For the purposes of determining child support, California law defines income as:

  1. Salaries, wages, commissions, and bonuses.
  2. Rents, typically from rental properties.
  3. Dividends and interest income.
  4. Pensions.
  5. Income from a trust or annuity (unless the annuity is connected to a non-income source such as personal injury proceeds).
  6. Monies received as the result of a worker’s compensation case.
  7. Unemployment and/or disability insurance benefits.
  8. Social security benefits.
  9. Spousal support received from an unrelated case.

There may be exceptions that apply to your situation. A qualified California family law attorney can tell you more.

The Statewide Child Support Guideline


California Family Code Section 4050 sets forth the guidelines the court must follow in applying child support rules. They include:

  • Each parent’s primary obligation is to support his or her minor children according to her or his situation and financial station in life.
  • Both parents are equally responsible for supporting their children.
  • It’s assumed the guideline is correct in all cases. Only in special instances should child support orders fall below the amount mandated by the guideline formula.
  • Child support orders must provide children with fair, timely, and sufficient support. The ordered support should also reflect California’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.

The Statewide Child Support Guideline is a complex algebraic formula that uses both parents’ incomes, deductions, and time spent with each child to determine a dollar amount for support (CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN)). What this means in simpler terms is that the greater the gap between income, and the less time the higher earning parent spends with the children, the more child support that parent will owe. Again, under California law, the amount of child support determined by the formula is presumed to be the correct amount owed. Unless there is a good reason why a different amount should be paid, the court is required to order the guideline figure

Learn More

Child support is a serious matter, and determining what is and is not income can be complicated. Whether you are the parent paying or the one receiving the child support payments, an experienced family law attorney who is knowledgeable on such issues can be very helpful. Remember, the goal is to guarantee that your children are well taken care of and that they receive everything they need to lead happy and healthy lives

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3 Ways to Divide Childcare Expenses When Separated


Divorces are never easy, especially when children are involved. Even once visitation is sorted out, the question of expenses and child support arises. In a perfect world, each parent would provide 50% of the childcare needs during the marriage and the divorce. However, even during a happy marriage income is rarely equitable and after a split there are many different elements to take into account, concerning finances. Here are some common ways to divide childcare expenses:

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Tips to Calculating Child Support

Calculating Child Support in California 

Every parent has an obligation to care for their child, even if their marriage falls apart. California law imposes guidelines on the local courts that help judges determine the appropriate amount of child support to award a family. Calculating child support in California is based on a calculation that takes both the parties income and how much time they spend with the child into consideration.

It’s important to note, California law requires all sources of income to be included with calculating child support.  This is outlined in Family Code Section 4058, it includes but is not limited to the following: commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest,  and trust income.

The process of gathering and assessing all of the information that is needed in order to provide an accurate decision is time consuming and frustrating.  However, it is important to ensure the continued stability of the child following a separation. Each parent should feel confident about the amount that has been ordered by the court to benefit their child.

1.  Make sure you are well organized!

One of the first steps in dealing with child support effectively and efficiently is to ensure that you are well organized. In the state of California, child support amounts will be calculated using a number of factors that are entered into a child support calculator.

Like any other form of data, the calculator will only be able to provide your judge with an accurate number if you provide accurate information. This means that you will need to ensure you have access to all necessary documents that contain information on your taxes, deductions and monthly income, including:

  • Wage stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Childcare expenses
  • Unemployment or disability benefits
  • Premiums for health insurance
  • Spousal support that is being paid into other relationships
  • Necessary expenses related to your job that are not reimbursed by an employer
  • Retirement contributions that are mandatory
  • Uninsured losses
  • Health care expenses
  • Child support paid for children within other relationships

You have to be able to prove, with documentation, the expenses and income that you list on your income and expense declaration.  Gathering up your information ahead of time will save time and money.  The court requires your last two month of paystubs if you are a W2 employee and you should be able to produce your last years taxes if asked.  If you are self employed, you will have to produce a profit and loss statement for the last 2 years.

2.  Has there been a change in your situation?

There are some instances in which an order for child support can be altered or changed if there is a change in circumstances for the individuals involved. A change in circumstances can be recognized in a variety of different forms, but some of the most common options include:

  • The incarceration of a parent
  • The loss of a job
  • One parent having a child in another relationship
  • A change in income
  • A significant change to the child’s needs which may increase the costs of healthcare, childcare, or education
  • Change in the amount of time a child spends with each of his or her parents

It is important to have your request pending immediately as it does take time to get into court.  Sometimes it can take months before you will be able to have your case heard.  Filing right away will reserve the retroactivity date.

3. Work with a professional attorney in your area!

Although it is possible to access free child-support calculators online, it is easy to call their accuracy into doubt. Calculating child support on your own can be done however you will usually find this will only lead to confusion and frustration. There is no way to ensure that you are taking all the deductions that you can or using the right figures.  Usually, working with an experienced and professional family lawyer will ensure that you have all the information you need regarding child support payments.

You may still get along with your former spouse but this is a legal matter now and you want to have someone who knows this arena on your side.

Minella Law Group can Help with California Child Support Issues

If you think you need assistance with calculating your child support, or you feel your support order is too high, we can help. We can take a look at the order and determine if there is a way to reduce or increase support based on the needs of the child and income of the parties. For more information or to schedule an appointment, click the button below, or call us at (619) 289-7948. We look forward to helping you.

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Why a Child Support Order is Necessary in San Diego

Understanding the Importance of Arranging Child Support in San Diego

Child support refers to a parent’s financial support of a child’s everyday living costs, including the consideration of necessities such as clothes, food, and a secure home environment. Although child support is not the only way a parent can contribute to the development of their child, it is particularly important for many reasons.

Although you may be in an uncomfortable situation with the other parent responsible for the child at this time and feel as though you cannot discuss the issue of child support, it is important to recognize that child support can make a real difference to children, not only providing them with the clothing, food, and essentials they need, but also providing a steady foundation for both parents to remain intimately involved within their child’s life.

How to Properly Arrange Child Support in San Diego

Whatever route you take when it comes to caring for and supporting your child through the complicated process of a divorce or separation, it is important to remember the child support that you put in place will help to give them the very best start in life, as well as keeping them secure throughout the journey to adulthood. Child support payments are a legal responsibility, and most of the time, a large majority of separated parents quickly come to an agreement about the costs required to care for their children.

However, making arrangements after a separation can be troublesome, and you may find that you need help from an experienced  family law attorney when it comes to working out the fine details. This is certainly the case if you do not trust your ex and if there are communication problems between the two of you.  Since child support is based on the amount of time you spent with your child and the amount of income made, if there is a lack of trust it can make the process more complicated.  You want to make sure that each person is properly reporting all sources of income, this may involve issuing discovery to look into the finances of each person.

A large percentage of families decide to construct an arrangement between themselves, agreeing formally with the other parent about the type, and how much child support that one will provide to the other. In legal terms, an agreement such as this is called a child support stipulation, however if you find that you cannot agree or that there is excess difficulty coming to terms, there are other ways to arrange child support.

The Options for Arranging Child Support in San Diego

One option for parents unable to come to an agreement about child support arrangements is by seeking the assistance of Department of Child Support  Services or DCSS. DCSS is a service the government runs to arrange support on your behalf, however they will only assist the custodial parent who is the payee or the receiver of support. DCSS will analyze the figures and make a decision on how much the paying parent (non-custodial parent) should pay to the receiving parent (custodial-parent ). This amount is calculated using a standard formula which allows the service to work out an enforceable amount then collect payments from the paying parent to be passed onto the receiving parent.  It is always helpful to have DCSS involved with the enforcement issues because they can monitor whether payments are received or not and also apply interest to any arrears.

The other option would be to hire an experienced family law attorney to assist you with calculating support.  An attorney will be able to examine all the factors used to calculate guideline child support and make sure that all income is factored in properly.  There are different types of income and they will need to be applied differently. For example, if one party is in the military and receives BAH, this is a non taxable income that needs to be calculated as non taxable.   An experienced family law attorney can assist you with this calculation and analysis of income.

Do I Need An Order, Can’t I Just Come to a Verbal Agreement?

If you and your partner are co-parenting and have an agreement between you for child support, you must get it made into an order of the court!  If there is no child support order, there is no obligation.  If a payment is missed, there is no one to enforce this payment unless it has been made into an order of the court.  If there is no obligation than there is no need to pay.  It is important to protect your child and yourself by having any agreements memorialized into a court order.  An experienced family law attorney can assist you with preparing a stipulation to send to court.

 Minella Law Group Can Help!

 Whether you need to obtain a child support order, have an existing order modified, or enforce an order, it is best to speak with an experienced San Diego family law attorney at Minella Law Group. Your attorney will work to make sure that the court considers all factors that are in your favor when making its decision.  Please call (619) 289-7948 to schedule a consultation.

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Minella Law Group Can Aid in Your Child Support Needs

Both parents are responsible for the financial support of all of their children until the children reach the age of 18. If the child or children are still in school at the age of 19, and still live at home and are unable to provide their own support, it is up to the parents to provide that support.

The state of California mandates the amount of child support that is paid from one parent to the other. The amount is figured by the computer generating of the payer’s financial status. The parent’s income, the amount of taxes that they pay, the amount of time that the parent has with the child, mandatory items that are deductible such as health insurance and retirement and the custodial parent’s ability to earn and their income are the main factors that determine the amount of child support to be paid. Child support can be altered should financial changes occur with the parent paying the support, or if the time share between the two parents should change at any time.
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How To Prepare For Your San Diego Child Support Attorney

Develop a Plan

To make everything as easy as possible and save on attorney costs, you will need to develop a plan. Take some time to think about what you want to accomplish during your child support case. Come up with some goals and objectives. Do you have a goal of gaining custody? Or, are you willing to negotiate mutually beneficial visits for both you and your ex-spouse? Are you comfortable with your ex-spouse gaining total custody? Deciding these factors and putting them in writing can make your attorney meeting more efficient. Also consider items such as what you want your child support to cover. How much can you reasonably afford? Get an idea by using an online calculator.
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