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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

How child support works in California

There is no doubt about it -- raising kids is expensive. But covering those costs can get a lot more complicated after divorce, especially for parents who have primary custody or simply earn a lot less than their ex's. Child support is just one way to make sure that both you and your ex are still providing financial stability for your child.

Whether you expect to receive child support or think you will have to pay, it is important to understand how it works. Your only exposure to support orders could be through your friends' or loved ones' situations. This will not give you an accurate idea of what your own child support situation will look like.

Is there a formula for child support?

Judges have to consider a lot of different factors before deciding on the most appropriate amount. You probably already know that the judge will look at your income as well as your ex's, but he or she should only be looking at your net disposable income. Your net income is what remains after paying for a number of different things, including:

  • Taxes
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • Health premiums
  • Spousal or child support from past relationships

However, income is not only about your net take home pay. Your income can also consist of tips, commissions, bonuses and stocks. Unemployment benefits and workers' compensation benefits also count toward income.

What does child support cover?

You know your child needs the basic necessities of life -- a safe place to live, access to food and a basic education. But child support covers a lot more than just those basic expenses. For example, monthly support payments can cover things like:

  • Health insurance
  • Daycare
  • Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are more than just sports and after-school clubs. They also include trips to museums, the zoo and more. While some parents think that child support should only be for necessities and nothing more, these extracurriculars are also important for children's development.

How long will the support order last?

Child support does not necessarily cut off as soon as a kid turns 18. If an 18-year-old is still attending high school, then his or her parent will still have to pay support. Support will typically end when he or she turns 19, marries, joins the military or passes away.

California parents generally agree that it is important to financially support their children, but child support is still a difficult topic. Some people resent having to pay their exes. It does not matter whether parents feel weird about paying or receiving money, what is most important is their child. If you are not sure whether your child's financial well-being will be secure after divorce, then you should be sure to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney.

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