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What are the guidelines for child support in California?

Paying child support is an important responsibility that parents all across California must take seriously. While many parents feel bitter or angry over having to pay child support, the fact is child support ensures that both parents contribute to the well-being of a child, even if that support is solely financial.

With all this in mind, we urge parents to understand that child support is not a penalty, and it is not arbitrary. In fact, there are specific guidelines in California regarding child support. These guidelines, which we examine below, ensure the support is appropriate and fair.

Calculating support

In order to calculate support, the courts will consider a number of concrete factors. These include:

  • Income of both parents
  • Medical needs of the child
  • Child care expenses
  • Financial obligations for other children
  • Balance of parenting time
  • Number of children

Based on these and other factors, the courts will determine who should pay support and how much support will be ordered. 

Adjusting support

Once support is established, the order will stay in place unless there is reason to seek a modification. Courts may grant a modification in the event of a significant change in a child's needs or a parent's ability to pay. Events that can prompt a modification include job loss, change in medical status or dramatic chance in income.

Ending child support

Parents can expect to pay child support until a child turns 18 and graduates high school or turns 19 years old. Payments can also stop if a child gets married, is emancipated or passes away. Payments cannot end at the whim of parents.

Know your rights and legal options

Because child support orders are typically in place for several years, it is very likely that you will have questions or concerns before or after support orders are put in place. You can address child support matters with a family law attorney in order to understand your legal options and protect your parental rights.

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