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Answering Your California Child Support Questions

How does a California court determine the amount of child support payments?

The federal government mandates that the states establish guidelines for determining child support. The California guidelines are codified in Section 4053 of the California Family Law Code as follows:

In implementing the statewide uniform guidelines, the following are some factors the court considers:

  • Each parent’s circumstances and station in life
  • Each parent’s actual income
  • Each parent’s level of responsibility for the children
  • The interests of the children
  • The ability of each parent to pay
  • The mutual responsibility of both parents
  • The standard of living of both parents
  • Where both parents have high levels of responsibility, the increased cost of raising children in two home
  • The minimization of disparities in the children’s living standards when living in two homes
  • The financial needs of the children and the private financial resources available
  • Where one parent has primary responsibility for the children, the contribution that parent makes financially as compared to the parent who has less responsibility
  • The extent of conflict between the parents and the desire to minimize litigation
  • The standard of living in California and the desire to provide its children with a better standard of care

How are child support payments calculated?

The actual amount is based upon the income of each parent and the amount of time each parent has child custody. The judge sets the amount in the child support order. The amount is based upon income from all sources. The California Department of Child Support Services website has a calculator you can use to estimate what your child support payments might be. You can access the child support calculator on the state of California website.

How long do child support payments last?

Until the child has graduated from high school or reaches the age of 19, whichever occurs first. The obligation may continue longer if the child is disabled. Additionally, the parents in a family law matter can agree to a longer time.

How are child support payments made?

There are several options for making payments through the California Department of Child Support Services website or by telephone at 1-866-901-3212. You can also mail in payments. You and your ex-spouse may also have an alternative agreement for making payments. Finally, you can have your child support deducted from your wages. The court will send your employer the proper paperwork to have the child support deducted.

Can child support be modified?

Yes, but there must be a change in circumstances to warrant the change, unless the original order was for an amount that fails to meet the child support guidelines outlined above. There are a number of reasons to modify the child support amount:

  • A change in income of one of the parents
  • A change in life circumstances (e.g. job loss, additional children born)
  • A change in the child’s needs (e.g. illness, disability)
  • A change in proximity to the child and time spent with the child

In order to legally effectuate a change in child support, the parents may agree on a new amount and submit it to the judge for approval, or the parent seeking the change files a motion with the court for a modification. It is advisable to retain an attorney to assist you with filing motions for modifications.

Contact Board Certified Family Lawyer Glenn L. Robertson for answers to child support FAQs

Attorney Glenn L. Robertson can be reached online or by phone at his Santa Barbara offices at 833-568-3544. Evening and weekend appointments are available on request. Mr. Robertson serves residents in Santa Maria, Summerland, Carpinteria, Lompoc, Ventura and all communities in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.


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