What Are Extraordinary Expenses in a Divorce in California?

by Teo Spengler
In California, both parents must support minor children.

In California, both parents must support minor children.

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In California divorces, both parents must contribute to the support of any minor children. Child support laws enforce this responsibility. Courts order noncustodial parents to pay a set amount every month toward the costs of raising their children; the appropriate amount is determined under statewide uniform guidelines. However, courts may order an additional contribution for certain costs termed "extraordinary expenses."

Parental Responsibility

Under California law, regardless of whether a couple stays together, the primary responsibility of each parent is to provide support for their minor children. This obligation applies equally to a child's mother and father who are considered mutually responsible; however, each parent's required financial contribution is based on their ability to pay.

State Uniform Guidelines

The California legislature adopted a statewide uniform guideline for determining appropriate child support. The formula for child support, set out in the California Family Code, takes into account the means and situation of each parent as well as the needs of the child. There is a presumption that the custodial parent contributes "substantial resources" to the support of the children. A California court's discretion to depart from the guideline amount is very limited.

Extraordinary Expenses

The child support statutes in California expressly render certain expenses independent of the base child support obligation. These expenses, termed "extraordinary expenses," justify a child support obligation above and beyond the base amount. Extraordinary expenses include the costs of child care, uninsured health care, children's education or other special needs, and travel expenses for visitation. The court's child support order sets out the percentage of these expenses each parent must pay.

Requesting Extraordinary Expenses

When one parent incurs bills for extraordinary expenses, she may seek contribution by promptly providing an itemized statement to the other parent. If she paid the entire expense already, she must provide proof of the payment and request reimbursement of the court-ordered share. However, if she paid only her percentage share, she must provide the other parent with proof of what she paid and request payment of the remainder to the provider. A parent disputing a request for extraordinary expenses must pay the amount before requesting the court rule on the propriety of the expense under the statute.