Child Support 101: What California parents need to know

The topic of child support can be one of contention, bitterness and misinformation. Because of how child support can be portrayed in the media and entertainment, it can be easy to think that child support is punishment for the paying parent and free money for the receiving parent. These misconceptions can turn any discussion about child support into a battle.

In this post, we want to clear up some of the confusion surrounding child support and explore the basics of what it is for and why it can be necessary.

To begin with, child support is not money to be used on whatever a person feels like spending it on. It is money that is to be spent on the needs of the child. This includes educational fees, extracurricular activities, entertainment, medical care and other things that a child needs. Unless a child's well-being and care comes into question, the parent receiving payment doesn't need to prove or itemize how the child support is spent.

In order to keep the child support in balance with the needs of the child, California courts will take several factors into account when calculating child support or approving orders developed by parents. In their calculations, the courts will consider a number of issues including:

  • Age of the child
  • Income of both parents
  • Custody arrangements
  • Child care expenses
  • Educational needs of the child
  • Travel expenses

After taking all these factors into consideration, a court will calculate what it feels is an appropriate amount of child support that a non-custodial parent will pay to help the custodial parent raise their child.

It is important to remember that orders for support are not meant to be seen as a penalty. Rather, it is to preserve a dynamic between parents and a child in which both parents are contributing to the life and well-being of the child. Even if a parent's role is only financial, as opposed to also being physical and emotional, it can be a significant and important role that is being fulfilled.

Before making any assumptions or decisions about child support, it is important to get the facts and understand your options. Speaking with an attorney can be an effective way to have your questions answered and help you work toward a fair resolution concerning child support.

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    Attorneys Paul Gavin and Wayne Dersch are certified as a family law specialists. Learn More