Child support is the amount of money ordered by the court to be paid for the support of the children by a parent or both parents. Child support is for the purpose of providing food, clothing, medical care and ability to get an education. The court applies the California Guideline Child Support Calculator to determine the amount ordered to be paid for child support. Child support payments are usually made until the children turn the age of 18, or 19 if the child is still in high school, living at home and can’t support themselves. Parents may agree to support a child longer. The court may also order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child that is not self-supporting.
There are two types of child support orders – governmental and non-governmental.
- A non-governmental child support order is an order made in a family law case by a judge or family law commissioner where the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is not involved.
- A governmental child support order is an order made by a child support commissioner in a case filed or enforced by the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), a governmental agency.
Before the parents can address the issue of child support, there must be an underlying action. To obtain an order for child support, you need to have an active case with the court. If there is no existing case, you need to file one of the following:
- If the parents are married , either parent must file a petition for dissolution (divorce), legal, separation or nullity.
- If you do not want to file for divorce or legal separation, you can file a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children and Summons.
- If the parents are unmarried, either parent must file a petition to establish the parental relationship.
- There is no legal obligation to pay child support from one parent to the other until there is a court order. A court order is obtained by requesting a hearing and by completing the appropriate paperwork.
- If you file a parentage action yourself, you may request orders for custody and visitation as well as child support.
You have several alternatives available to assist you in obtaining a support order:
- The Resource Center is available to provide information regarding court procedures and instructions on completing, filing and serving the necessary documents. Workshops are offered by the Resource Center at different locations and times.
- You may contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to open a child support case. There are three offices to serve you in Loma Linda, Ontario and Victorville. They may be reached at (866) 901-3212 or on their website.
- You may ask to cancel (set aside) a Default Judgment in a DCSS child support case. There are special rules that apply here and you should seek legal advice.
- You may ask a lawyer to assist you, check the phone book or call the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-215-1190. The website is Lawyer Referral Service.
Upon request, the court may permit telephonic appearances in actions for child support when the local child support agency is providing services under the title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Please see California Rules of Court, Rule 5.324, for the required form for the request, notice and service requirements and other information about telephonic appearances can be found here.
- Child Support Court locations
- Child Support Resource Center hours of service and locations
- Department of Child Support Services
- Child Support Forms
- Online Form Preparation and eFiling
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I still have to pay child support if my parental rights have been terminated?
Your parental rights are terminated, and you owe child support that was ordered before your rights were terminated, you are still required to pay the amount owed. Note that the court, if requested to do so, may only order a termination of parental rights if someone else is prepared to adopt the child. The court generally will not order a termination of your parental rights if that would leave the child with only one parent responsible for his or her care and support.
Is it possible for parents agree on a support amount without going to court?
California courts generally will follow the California child support guidelines in determining the amount of child support that a parent owes. Parents to agree (stipulate) on a support amount, but a judicial officer must approve the agreement.
How does the court decide on the amount of child support per child?
If parents cannot agree on how much money is fair and reasonable to take care of their child, the court may be requested to order one parent to pay the other parent a specific amount of money every month to help pay for a child’s living expenses. The judge must decide the child support amount based on a guideline calculation. California has established a formula to calculate guideline child support. Only in very limited circumstances can the judge order something other than the guideline amount. Basic child support does not include the cost of child care or uninsured medical expenses. These additional costs will be considered by the Court, and ordered in addition to guideline support.
How long do I have to pay child support?
The legal duty of support continues until the child turns 18 years of age, and has graduated from high school; or turns 19 years old, whichever occurs first; marries; dies; or is legally free in some way, such as joining the military.
The court may also order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child if that child cannot support him or herself.