Child Support Awareness

August is Child Support Awareness Month, which is celebrated across the country and emphasizes the importance of supporting our nation’s children. Child support is money paid to cover a child’s living and medical expenses. Both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children, regardless of whether the parents ever married. The court may order either or both parents to pay child support to cover a child’s living and medical expenses.

There is a guideline formula for calculating child support in California. The Department of Child Support Services has a child support calculator that you can use, but you should be aware that the laws on child support are complex and should consider consulting with a family law attorney who can calculate guideline child support for you. In general, child support is based on each parent’s income and the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. Income used in calculating child support can include wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, self-employment earnings, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, interest, dividends, rental income, etc.

There may be circumstances that justify lowering your child support payments. Do you now have a greater amount of custody of the child since the last hearing on child support? Are you now responsible for caring for any other children? Are there any deductions (e.g., union dues, mandatory retirement) that might factor into your support amount? Either parent may request a review of the child support case if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

If you cannot afford your child support payments, you should not just stop paying. This could result in wage garnishment, suspension of your driver’s license, or a contempt action. If you are charged with contempt, your case may be referred to the District Attorney for prosecution. Your child support obligation should be taken very seriously.

Whether you have already fallen behind in paying child support or are concerned that you cannot keep up with your child support payments, you should consider seeking legal representation to ensure that your rights are protected. The laws on child support are complex and the consequences for contempt can be very serious (e.g., criminal charges).