Child Support 101

Child support is mandatory in any case where minor children are involved. Neither parent may waive children support. Parents and guardians can stipulate a set amount. However, if that amount is lower than the state guideline, the parties must stipulate several other issues.

How does child support begin?

When a person files a family law petition (divorce, custody, parentage, or support), they can make a preliminary support order retroactive to the date the petition is filed.

Generally, a person seeking support must first file a motion requesting child support. In California Family Law Cases, we call motions Request for Orders.

Another way someone can seek child support is through the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). If a party is receiving public assistance for an unsupported child, DCSS can file an action to establish child support against.

How is Child/Children Support Calculated?

Child support is typically calculated using a child support calculation such as DissoMaster or DCSS’s child support calculator. The formula is based on the time spent with the minor child and the parties’ income and expenses.

When are child support payments due?

Child Support is due as soon as the court orders it. It is always a good idea to pay some form of child support voluntarily before any orders are made to avoid any arrears that may become due due to a retroactive order.

How is Child Support paid?

Courts can order someone to pay child support via a Wage Assignment (garnishment), directly to the payee, or through DCSS.

What happens when payments are missed?

If someone misses a child support payment, it will incur interest at 10% per year. This compound interest is added to the principal balance owed. It is important to make child support payments on time each month to avoid incurring unnecessary costs and interest on your child support payments.

Sometimes, arrears can be paid back through a payment plan or by negotiating a settlement. The court will not be able to order a negotiated settlement. The court can order a payment plan where interest will continue to accrue on the arrears.

If multiple payments are missed, the arrears will continue to accrue interest. Child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and arrears can be collected even after the death of the payor. Failure to pay child support can result in the person losing the ability to obtain a passport and driver’s license.

What to do if your income changes?

If you cannot make your child support payments and your income has changed, filing a motion to modify child support as soon as possible is essential to avoid incurring a large arrears balance.

When there is an obligation to pay child support, never ignore the obligation and make all efforts to make the child support payment. If you are in a financial position where paying child support is creating a genuine financial hardship and you cannot meet your basic living needs (shelter and food), you may be able to modify the amount through a court order.

If you need assistance with child support, our firm of experienced attorneys is here to help, whether it is modifying orders, helping you work through arrears, or obtaining child support orders. Contact us to set up your consultation today.

*DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice but should be construed for general informational purposes only.

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