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Child custody can be a perplexing concept, but the information presented here can help you understand child support better. Custody concerns the parent, parents, or other people who act as a child's legal guardians. In some custody arrangements, one parent has custody of a child and provides for that child's physical and financial needs. To help with the costs of raising that child, the noncustodial parent becomes legally obligated to make child support payments to the custodial parent.
Only people determined to be a child's parent have to pay child support. When you're trying to show your claim as a parent to a child, you're establishing paternity, and you can prove paternity in several ways.
Determine first whether the child's parents remain unmarried. If so, one parent may sign a voluntary declaration of paternity. If both child's parents are married, one can presume the child is the offspring of the mother's husband. The husband, however, can challenge that idea and ask for a paternity test. The mother can ask for tests as well, but, in California, both the presumed father and the mother have only two years after the child's birth to file a motion to ask for paternity testing.
What happens if both parents aren't married? One of the parents can ask for a paternity test to prove parentage. If the father disputes paternity, the mother would need to file a paternity case to settle the issue of parentage before she would be able to get a child support order against the father.
Who doesn't have to pay support?
California law requires parents to pay child support until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever event comes later. Given that law, a parent may have to pay child support until the child turns 19 if the child remains unmarried and still attends high school. Generally speaking, however, child support obligations end when the child comes of age or marries, whichever event happens first.
Stepparents do not have to pay child support for a new spouse's natural children in most cases. Keep in mind, however, that a parent's remarriage may be considered a significant financial change that affects the parent's child support award or obligation. For example, if a parent marries a wealthy spouse who owns a home, that parent's living expenses may diminish and impact how much the parent should pay or receive in child support.
Can you avoid paying child support?
A child support order is a judicial order, i.e. a directive from a judge. It is not okay to disobey, or fail to abide by, a judicial order, regardless of your feeling about its fairness. While you cannot refuse to make support payments, you may have the option of seeking an adjustment in the amount of money you're required to provide to your child's mother or father in the future. Further, you may be able to work with your local government in an attempt to make an amends for delinquent payments.
How does California calculate child support?
Each state has its own formula for calculating child support based on the parent's income, the child's needs, and other factors. In California, the child support formula includes the following criteria:
- Income and earnings of each parent
- Amount of time each parent spends taking care of the child. California uses a timeshare model that requires you to estimate the percentage of time you spend with the child. The state has a helpful timeshare visitation chart that can help parents calculate the child support they will pay or receive.
- Financial needs of the child
- Amount of money needed to sustain the child's current standard of living
Note that these factors are only guidelines for judges to consider. The court has the final authority to decide the proper amount of child support at its discretion.
Starting a child support case?