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Frequently Asked Questions regarding California child support payments

When you are contemplating divorce or have separated from the parent of your children, there are a multitude of questions that accompany the issue of child support. For your information and peace of mind, here are some answers to some of the most commonly asked questions when contemplating the critical issue of child support.

What are the steps to child support?

There are some key steps that must be undertaken to receive court-ordered child support. It is important to hire a child support lawyer to oversee this complex process:

Step 1: Open a child support case.

Step 2: Locate the parent if he or she cannot be found.

Step 3: Establish paternity if fatherhood has not been established.

Step 4: Establish the child support order.

Step 5: Enforce the child support order.

How is child support calculated in California?

Under California law, there are complex guidelines that judges are required to use to calculate child support. The child support formula takes into account how much time each parent spends with the child, how much money each parent makes, additional income either parent may receive, tax deductions available to each parent, how many children are in need of support, health insurance expenses and child care expenses.

If the children primarily live with me, when should I apply for child support?

You may apply for child support when the need occurs. It is generally requested after separation with your partner pursuant to a divorce application along with a custody request.

Can we agree on a child support amount without going to court?

Courts generally follow the California Child Support Guidelines to determine child support amounts. Parents may stipulate or agree on an amount, but it is still subject to court approval.

As a father, can I receive child support?

Yes. Child support is not determined by sex. Either parent can receive child support. If you are the parent with primary custody, and are responsible for most of the day to day expenses and care of the child, you may be entitled to receive child support from the mother.

How must child support be used?

The purpose of child support is to provide your child with food, clothing, education and medical care. In receiving child support, you are expected to use these payments for such expenses and needs. Courts have held it unacceptable for child support to be used for a direct benefit to the custodial parent or to be used as “spending money” for the child.

If I am not married to my child’s mother or father, do I have to pay child support?

Yes. In California, every parent is required to financially support his or her child. There is no need for parents to be married, but parentage may be found to establish legal rights to the child. If a man denies he is the father, a court may order him to take a blood test to make this determination.

Am I responsible for child support payments even if I do not have a relationship with my child? What if my parental rights have been terminated?

Yes, you will be responsible for child support payments even if you have no relationship with your child. Remember, both legal parents are financially responsible for supporting their children, unless your rights have been legally terminated. In this case, parental rights will only be terminated if another person wants to adopt your child. The courts do what’s in the “best interests of the child” and do not want to leave that child with only one parent to financially support them.

If the other parent does not pay court ordered child support, can I withhold visitation?

You may not withhold visitation to punish the non-custodial parent for not paying some or all of the child support. The law strongly supports the child having a relationship with both parents and keeping that child away from another parent is considered punishment of the child as well. The only time access to the child is denied is when a parent’s behavior may harm a child. You should never refuse access to the child for not paying child support.

What happens if I lose my job? Am I still obligated to pay child support?

Once child support is ordered, you are obligated and required to comply with that order. However, you may modify a child support order due to a change of circumstances.  For example, if you have a change in income or are facing extreme financial hardship, you may petition the court to reduce your support payments. Financial hardship includes child support to other children, unemployment or extraordinary medical expenses.

Likewise, if the obligated parent is spending more time with the child due to unemployment or reduction in work hours, they may petition the court to reduce child support or even may be successful in reversing support payments onto the other parent.

What if the other parent refuses to pay child support?

Child support orders are legally-binding and obligate a parent to provide monthly financial support for his or her child. Under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, all state attorneys must assist you in collecting support. Federal laws also allow you to garnish tax refunds to enforce a support order.

In California, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) will assist you with the enforcement of child support orders. In order for them to enforce the order, they must first register it and make it payable to DCSS. After this is successfully completed, all questions and problems will be addressed to DCSS. Your support will be distributed to you, the custodial parent, within 48 hours of DCSS receiving payment from the obligated parent.

Other methods for collecting child support payments include wage garnishments, suspension of business or occupational licenses (i.e., doctor, attorney), revoking a driver’s license or non-issuance of a passport. In the worst case scenario, the court may hold this parent in contempt and impose a jail term if no reasonable explanation can be given for non-payment of child support.  However, this is a last resort and is rarely granted.

Minella Law Group Can Assist With California Child Support Payments

Our Child Support Lawyers at Minella Law Group will work to secure your best interest in resolving child support issues, which may include:

  • Establishing child support payments
  • Modification of child support orders
  • Assistance with child support enforcement

Establishing, determining and enforcing child support is a difficult and important process that you should not do alone. Our Family Law Attorneys will support you and work to protect your personal, financial and family well-being through diligent investigation, careful analysis, and experienced advocacy.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, click below or call us at (619) 289-7948. We look forward to helping you.