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What is Child Support and When does it Occur in California?

Under Federal and California State laws, child support is a court-ordered payment made by one or both parents to cover a child's living and medical expenses, often detailed in public records related to the separation of the parents. Typically, this regular payment pattern is enforced following a divorce, child custody action, paternity action, or separate child action. The California Department of Child Support Services and the Local Child Support Agencies are responsible for mediating child support payments, enforcing child support orders, and modifying child support orders in the state.

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  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is California Child Support?

The major aim of child support in California is to ensure children share in the standard of living of both parents. Under Section 4053 of the California Uniform Child Support Guidelines, child support is the amount of money that a parent or both parents are obligated to pay on a monthly basis in order to cater to the financial needs of children. Generally, this payment is expected to go on until the child turns 18, or 19, provided the child is not married and still attending high school full time. In special cases, the court may order child support to continue after the child becomes an adult.

What Does Child Support Cover in California?

Child support in California covers basic living expenses for a child such as food, elementary education, shelter, utility, insurance-protected medical bills, entertainment, transportation, and child care costs. California child support may not provide for medical bills that are not covered by insurance, special education fees, and travel expenses for visiting the non-custodial parent. These needs may be provided for if parents make explicit requests for additional expenses in the order. Otherwise, the cost may be halved allowing each parent to pay 50%.

What is the Average Child Support Payment in California?

The State of California establishes child support amounts through its uniform child support guideline for determining child support payments. This guideline helps the courts to calculate the amount one or both parents are required to pay through a mathematically derived formula. Because of its complex nature, California features an online child support calculator on its court official website. To determine the average amount a person is supposed to pay, the following information must be provided:

  • Both parents' gross income
  • The number of children shared by both parents
  • The time each child shares with each parent (in percentage)
  • Details of other monthly income tax deductions such as child support paid to other relationships, alimony, mortgage interest, etc
  • Other mandatory payroll deductions such as pensions, union dues, and health insurance
  • Child care costs incurred by either parent

How do I apply for Child Support in California?

To apply for child support in California, interested persons are required to take the following steps:

  • Open the case by filling the online application form or by visiting the Local Child Support Agency(LCSA)
  • Provide the LCSA with the parent's date of birth, social security number, and any other relevant personal information to be able to locate the parents
  • As soon as the case is opened, complete the Summons and Complaint packet to be able to officially file a summons and complaint
  • The other parent may then respond, file for proof of parentage, or create a stipulated agreement
  • If there is no stipulated agreement, file the support order and attend the court hearing

Note that the child support order can proceed on default if the other parent does not file a response within 30 days. After a child support order is set, the payment schedule begins. Those who delay or refuse to pay their child support may face enforcement actions until they pay with 10% interest. Such actions can include:

  • Driver's license or passport suspension
  • Property or bank liens
  • Tax refunds interception
  • Lottery winnings interception
  • Civil contempt of court action

How do I Get Out of Paying Child Support in California?

In California, the legal means of getting out of paying child support is by waiting until the child is an adult, graduates high school, or through emancipation by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is also possible if the child dies or gets married while still a minor. Those that do not meet these criteria are lawfully allowed to request for modification due to "changes in circumstances." Such changes can include:

  • Loss of job
  • Increased amount of time shared with children
  • Additional children that requires financial assistance and child support obligations
  • Change in child's needs
  • Incarceration in jail or prison

Be aware that with the other party's consent, a child support order may be modified without the court's mediation and without the need to prove a change in circumstances. Following a unanimous agreement, all that needs to modify an order is to file a motion with the court and wait for the judge to sign it.

Child support orders that were originally filed by the LCSA may be modified by contacting and requesting a "review and adjustment" from the applicable local child support office. This office will either work out an agreement with the consent of both parties and get a new support order from the court.

If the other party refuses to give consent, which is more likely, go to court and file for a court hearing to change an existing child support order. To achieve this, the following filing procedures should be followed:

What is Back Child Support in California?

By law, back child support is a payment that a non-custodial parent must pay for failing to pay the complete child support or automatically stopping payment. Back child support is otherwise known as child support arrears in California. There are consequences attached with back child support which can include driver's license seizure, interception of wages by the government, and increment in the payment for failing to pay in the past in accordance with the California Family Code 4722.

How do I Get Back Child Support Paid in California?

The Local Child Support Agency LCSA is tasked with collecting back child support payments in California. The California Family Code 4723 provides the method for filing of notice by a support obligee. The notice must be signed under the penalty of perjury and shall contain the amount owed, amount paid, and the amount left, and details of installment payments, if applicable. Any unpaid installment will incur 6% per month interest until the unpaid support is cleared.

Is there a California Statutes of Limitation on Child Support?

The State of California does not have any statute of limitations on child support payments. This payment is continuous until the child becomes adult and all arrears and back payments are fully paid.

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