What Do Fathers Need to Know About Child Support in California?

Child support is an enormous topic with considerable legal complexity that can make it frustrating for fathers to navigate when their marriage ends and the financial responsibility for children must be negotiated. Whether the father is on the receiving end of the child support or the one paying it, there are many questions (and many misperceptions) about it. This isn’t a complete list, but it answers some of the most common questions.

One of the first things to understand is that child support is neither a reward nor a punishment to the parent. The court views it solely as something that’s in the child’s best interests. The child needs to be cared for, and child support is set to make that happen.

How Does California Calculate Child Support?

It’s a complicated set of calculations that take into account various things, but the two primary factors are:

  • The difference in income between the parents. The more significant the difference between the parents’ incomes, the larger the child support payment from the higher-earning spouse is likely to be. If the incomes are similar, the payment is likely to be smaller.
  • The difference in the amount of time each parent gets to share with the child. Child support payments are likely to be lower if the parents are close to a 50/50 physical custody arrangement and higher if one parent has the child most or all of the time. Contrary to popular opinion, a 50/50 physical custody situation does not negate the need for child support; income disparity is still a significant factor.

Because the actual calculation process is so detailed and complex, it’s best to work with an experienced child support and divorce attorney when planning for child support.

Is the Parent Receiving Child Support Required to Spend All the Funds Only on the Child?

This is a frequently misunderstood situation that can lead to contention between parents. The answer is the parent receiving child support payments is not required to use those funds only on things like food or clothes for the child. The payments are meant for the receiving parent to pay for the necessities of day-to-day life, which means they can use those funds for things like mortgage or utility payments.

It’s also important to know that the parent receiving payments is not required to provide receipts for what the money was used for.

Can the Parent Making Payments Quit Their Job to Avoid Paying Child Support?

Generally not. The court looks at what’s in the child’s best interests, and that is going to involve providing financial support for their needs while growing up. If the parent making payments quits their job or deliberately takes a much lower-paying job, the court could very well determine that they’re underemployed and do something known as “imputing income.” That means the court will set the child support amount at what it thinks is appropriate rather than based on the paying parent’s income.

However, that can work both ways. A parent who stayed home when the child was young could be expected to work toward financial self-sufficiency when the child is older and doesn’t need as much direct parental care. Some time for training may be allowed if that parent has been out of the workforce for many years; every case varies.

Child Support Ends When the Child Turns 18, Right?

Not always. Technically, child support ends when the child turns 18 or finishes high school, whichever is later. So, a child that turns 18 in November of their senior year will still require child support payments until they graduate the following year.

Other exceptions involve children with disabilities or special needs who will require special services beyond the age of 18. It’s also possible for the parents to negotiate child support that lasts longer, too; some couples will continue the payments while the child is a full-time college student.

Can Child Support Payments Be Changed?

Sometimes, people think child support payments are written in stone and can’t be changed until they’re done. While the court isn’t necessarily agreeable to changing payments on a whim, there are situations in which it will consider making an official change, usually involving the following conditions.

  • One of the parents had a significant change in income, whether positive or negative.
  • There was a change in physical custody arrangements that shifted how much time the child spends with each parent.
  • The child’s needs changed significantly.
  • One parent remarried and had another child.

If I Remarry, Will My New Spouse’s Income Affect the Child Support Amount?

Only rarely. California law generally holds that a new spouse’s income can’t be used when running the child support calculations. Most of the time, the parent’s gross income is the primary factor.

There are some exceptions, however, including tax implications that could affect the payment amount. For more specifics, talk to an experienced child support attorney.

What Should I Do if I Need Help with Child Support?

Call Reel Fathers Rights at 909-323-7962 to request an initial consultation. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable family law attorneys can walk through the specifics of your case, whether you’re the person who would receive the support or the one who would pay it, and help determine the best approach. We understand that you have rights as a father, and we’re to help you achieve them in the best possible outcomes.