One of the greatest myths about California child support payments is that there is anything to argue about.
California has a mandatory statewide guideline for child support, meaning that a judge must order the guideline amount unless the parents have a written agreement otherwise, or unless certain exceptions can be proved.
The guideline is based on the actual after-tax income of the parents, and the amount of time each has physical custody.
If you want to include an agreement in your Settlement Agreement regarding how much support will be paid, knowing the guideline figures for your case will help you decide what’s fair, and make your negotiations easier.
Now that you know about the mandatory guidelines, you can see that there is nothing to be gained by dragging a child support argument into court, because the judge has to follow the established guidelines.
Even if you and your spouse agree on an amount that you can both live with, you still have to show the court that you knew the correct guideline amount before you made the agreement.
There are too many details about California child support payments to cover them all in this article, but here are some important facts:
- Duration. Children are entitled to support until they reach the age of 19. However, if a child reaches 18 and is not a full-time high school student, or dies, or marries, or becomes self-supporting, he or she is no longer entitled to child support. It’s whichever occurs first.
If the parents agree in writing, support can be ordered to age 21 or through college or training. California child support payments for a disabled minor or adult child who is unable to work can be extended so long as the disability lasts.
Child support usually starts when ordered, but it is possible to have it made retroactive to the date the Petition was filed. Child support does not end automatically when the spouse receiving the support dies, but a written agreement or Judgment can state that child support ends on death of the recipient if the payor takes custody of the children.
- Additional support: health insurance. In addition to basic guideline support, health insurance for children must be made a part of a support order if it is available at a reasonable cost to either parent (usually part of employment benefits or through membership in some group). If not available, the order must require it to be obtained if ever it becomes available at reasonable cost in the future.
Group health insurance is generally presumed to be reasonable in cost. A health insurer cannot refuse to cover a child for any of these reasons: – The child doesn’t live with the insured parent – The child lives outside the coverage area – The child is not claimed as a dependent on the insured’s tax return – The child was born out-of-wedlock
If you have an uncooperative spouse, the court can order the employer directly to enroll the children in the health plan. The court can also award a sum of money to cover the cost of life insurance on the paying spouse to benefit the dependent spouse or children.
- Additional support: shared expenses. In addition to guideline support, both parents are responsible for certain child care expenses which must be shared equally unless the parties agree or a judge orders them shared in proportion to net incomes.
The two required add-ons to California child support payments are (1) child-care expenses to enable either parent to work, and (2) uninsured health care expenses. The two discretionary add-ons are (1) educational or special needs of a child, and (2) travel expenses for a visiting parent.
- Uninsured health care expenses. Every California child support payment order must include an order that the parents will share reasonable uninsured health care costs for the child, either equally or in proportion to their net incomes. Amounts actually paid are presumed reasonable unless evidence is presented to show otherwise. A form stating the parents’ rights and duties must be attached to any Judgment containing this order.
As you can see, the courts consider the welfare of children to be a very high priority during divorce, and this is clearly reflected in the rules governing California child support payments.