Child Support in California

Child support is financial obligation of the parents to ensure a child’s welfare is met. California Family Code Sec. 4053(a) states: “A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.”


Both parents are responsible. Child support is paid by one parent to another and is calculated using “each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.” California Family Code Sec. 4053(c)


Child support can be calculated and ordered by the court at any time. That means, when the couple was never married, pending divorce action, during divorce and after the divorce. A parent may also request child support pending a domestic violence restraining order.

Guideline support, which is term when using the court’s approved calculator, uses the following factors to determine the amount:


  • The number of children involved in the case

  • The custody arrangement (where the children live most of the time)

  • Each parent’s tax liabilities

  • Whether one or both parents supports a child from a previous relationship

  • How much the children’s healthcare costs

  • Whether parents have mandatory retirement contributions or other job-related expenses

  • Other relevant costs, such as day care, education, and travel


Child support can always be modified as long as the requesting parent can show a change in circumstance. There are many good reasons why a child support order might need to be changed. Some of these reasons are:


  • Income of one or both parents has changed;

  • One parent has lost his or her job;

  • One parent has been incarcerated;

  • One parent had another child from another relationship;

  • Significant changes in how much time the child in the case spends with each parent;

  • Needs of the child have changed and there may be more (or less) costs for child care, health care, or education; and

  • There have been changes in any of the factors that are used to calculate child support.


The two most common ways to modify the amount of child support in court is either a change is income for either parent or a modification of the custody arrangement (increased custody time for one of the parents). For this reasons, custody and child support are closely connected in court hearings.

In most cases, a parent is responsible for the child support order amount until a new court order is granted. That means a parent who loses his or her job, goes on disability, or has a pay decrease needs to file a request immediately to modify the current order.


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