What You Need to Know About Child Support Court in California

by David Montoya
Calculate child support payments with an attorney or third party.

Calculate child support payments with an attorney or third party.

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Child support payments can create turmoil during California divorce proceedings. A number of issues exist, including how California law calculates child support payments, how payments can change and how payments end. The law explains these issues in detail, but the judge prevailing over a case has influence over the final outcome.

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Child Support Calculations

California family law courts determine child support in cases that affect parental relationships. This includes divorce, domestic violence restraining orders, custody orders, and orders to establish a parental relationship. Since family law courts are courts of equity, the courts use several factors to determine the fairest child support payment outcome. Common factors taken into consideration include the salaries of both parents, the time each parent spends with the child, educational costs, medical costs, and any other pertinent financial matters. California family law courts attempt to cover all the expenses of the children while not unduly burdening the party making the child support payments.

Making Payments

Child support payments are made through the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU) and typically occur through wage garnishments, where an employer takes money from a parent's paycheck to satisfy a child support order. Courts rarely deviate from the wage garnishment process, but will consider such factors as whether wage garnishment is unduly burdensome, if timely payments have been made for a year, whether the child or children's interests are served by ending wage garnishments, whether there is any outstanding child support, and if a child support agreement between the two parties specifies another form of payment.

Changing Child Support

Financial situations change, sometimes necessitating the need to alter child support orders. For example, a father paying $500 a month in support may not have the ability to continue payments if facing long-term unemployment. Similarly, a mother receiving payments may no longer need the support upon earning a promotion at work. Any party to a child support order can petition the court to change child support orders upon a showing of good cause.

Failure to Pay Child Support

Family law courts closely enforce child support payments. A party can face serious consequences when failing to adhere to the orders. Failure to make timely payments may result in accumulated interest while long-term failure can result in wage garnishment or being held in contempt of court. A party filing for contempt must complete an affidavit, noting exactly how much child support is owed. If the nonpaying party is found guilty of contempt, he can go to jail for up to five days and pay fines for each violation. In child support contempt cases, the court considers each month of missed payments a separate count of contempt. When a party is found guilty of missing several months of payments, extensive jail time is possible.

Ending Child Support

Family law courts end child support orders at the occurrence of several events. In the state of California, child support typically ends when a child graduates from high school or turns 19. Other events that can end child support include marriage, emancipation, enrollment in the military, and death.

Child Support Agreements

Besides calculating child support payments, California family law courts also accept child support agreements between the two parties in the matter. The courts can accept any agreement if both parties came to the agreement willingly and if the best interest of the child or children is served by the agreement. The California Courts website outlines additional factors taken into consideration. These factors include whether or not the parents are on public assistance or have applied, if the parents know the guideline child support amount, and if the parents completely understand their child support rights.