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:
- Salaries, wages, commissions, and bonuses.
- Rents, typically from rental properties.
- Dividends and interest income.
- Income from a trust or annuity (unless the annuity is connected to a non-income source such as personal injury proceeds).
- Monies received as the result of a worker’s compensation case.
- Unemployment and/or disability insurance benefits.
- Social security benefits.
- 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
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