When a couple decides to separate, they no longer have the economic advantages that come from living together. Two households, two cars, two electric bills, two water meters – two of everything – leaves less money for everyone to live on.
Divorce or separation can be, and usually is, a very disruptive time for all involved. Courts can’t help the fact that mom and dad don’t want to live together anymore, and they can’t prevent the emotional fallout of this change. But, Courts are very concerned about how this new arrangement will impact the basic financial care the children involved will receive. That concern begins with making sure that the children are not impoverished by their parents’ breakup.
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In California State, the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) provides a formula for calculating how much money is required to be paid, usually by the parent the children do not live with, to the parent the children do live with, for the benefit of the children. That money is called child support, and to many individuals contemplating or already involved in divorce, the concept itself can be baffling. Together with child custody, visitation, and equitable distribution, child support is a topic of intense interest to a matrimonial Court.
California Child Support
Here is what child support is not:
• It is not a punishment
• It is not revenge
• It is not a “victory” for the spouse/parent receiving it
Here is what child support is:
• It is a responsibility to one’s children
• It is money that keeps one’s children fed, dressed, and warm
• It is money that keeps the children near that set standard of living they had when mom and dad lived together
Children have to be and deserve to be supported. That is the joint responsibility of both parents, whether or not they were ever married, or whether the children reside with them.
The CSSA child support formula is based upon the salary of the spouse who must to pay it, and the proportion which that salary bears to the combined income of the parties, the number of children in the family, and other factors. The parent who receives child support payments also pays it, indirectly, in the form of expenditures he or she makes on behalf of the children in terms of rent, food, clothing, and so forth.
Courts have leeway, in certain circumstances, to order or approve a level of child support which differs, or deviates, from the CSSA specified level. Those circumstances can include: expected standards of living, tax consequences, non-monetary forms of support, and so forth. Divorcing partners can also, when negotiating their settlement, grant or take offsets against one another’s financial or other interests.
But the important thing to remember about child support is this: it’s the only way the law has to insure that parents, who no longer live together, will mutually see to it that their children are provided for as best as possible
The CSSA Formula
Parents/spouse typically make their child support payments directly to their former spouses by check or through the mail. Sometimes, those payments are directed by a Court to be made through the local county Child Support Collection Unit (SCU), rather than directly to the recipient. The SCU keeps an account of those payments and then forwards them. In other circumstances, an automatic deduction from one’s paycheck, known as an income execution, may be the mechanism by which child support payment is guaranteed.
Methods of Child Support Payment
Once a settlement has been negotiated, or Court proceeding concluded and a child support obligation has been fixed, the responsible parent has an absolute obligation to pay, and the recipient parent has an absolute right to receive, the established child support payments. However, there may be certain circumstances which constitute justifiable grounds for the non-payment of child support, or the adjustment (increase/decrease) of its level.
For example, if a change in circumstances occurs, a Court may, upon petition, favorably review the child support level which was ordered earlier. Such a change usually has to be unanticipated, substantial, and through no fault of the payor. This means that a layoff might be seen by a Court as reasonable, whereas dismissal for lateness probably would not. Becoming sick or being injured can also be considered justifiable reasons for what is called a “downward modification”.
But there is another side to this coin. The parent receiving child support can also petition a Court for an “upward modification” for various reasons such as obtain a cost-of-living-allowance (COLA). To do this, the parent must prove to the Court that they have valid changed circumstances, and that the children’s needs cannot be met at the current level of support.
Enforcement, Follow-Up, and Adjustments
The willful non-payment of child support is severely frowned upon and it is not tolerated by our legal system. Courts will move swiftly against a parent who fails to make child support payments. Such action can involve an inquiry into why the delinquency exists and how it can be paid down. In extreme cases, ignoring a child support obligation can result in punitive measures including incarceration, until the back payments are made current.
Non-payment of Child Support
Child support in California State is usually payable until a child reaches the age of 21. Various exceptions can apply here, too. If a child becomes employed full-time, or enters the military, or marries, child support can terminate before he or she attains this age. If a child continues in college full-time until the age of 22, the situation may extend child support for one more year in some circumstances.
Riverside Divorce & Family Law Attorneys
If you have questions, either within or outside the framework of a current marriage or divorce, regarding your child support obligations, having the guidance of a firm highly experienced in real-world family and matrimonial law is to your benefit.
At The Law Offices of Kyle J. Farquhar, we have represented clients in literally thousands of cases involving child support.
Termination or Extension of Child Support