Child support is a monthly financial obligation that one parent pays the other parent to help pay for the expenses of raising their child. More specifically, when married or unmarried parents maintain separate households, both parents are typically responsible for the financial support of their children.

A San Diego court will order one parent to provide financial support to the other parent if necessary to harmonize the child support obligations of each parent. These financial support obligations are not necessarily equal.

The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard and the Purpose of Child Support

One overarching standard applies to every decision in a family law case involving children including child support, child custody, divorce, and property division: the ”best interests of the child.” 

This standard takes precedence over the personal interests of either parent as well as the child’s own preferences. Nevertheless, the “best interests of the child” standard can be difficult to apply under individual circumstances.  

California Child Support Guidelines

California parents and courts calculate child support based on the California child support guidelines. These guidelines are so complex that most people need specialized software to use them. With the court’s permission, parents can sometimes agree to deviate from these guidelines.

Length of Child Support Obligations

Child support obligations against both parents continue until their youngest child has turned 18, joined the military, or gotten married. As long as a child is still in high school, child support obligations continue until the child turns 19.

Comparative Financial Obligations

A court will divide child support obligations between the parents based on each parent’s income, expenses, and parenting time. If these are not equal, then child support obligations will flow from one parent to the other. 

All other factors being equal, the parent with more parenting time will have greater childcare expenses for the other parent to offset. Again, all other factors being equal, the parent with the most disposable income will shoulder the greater financial burden. 

What Does Child Support Cover?

Both parents must cover their children’s childcare expenses. These expenses include the child’s housing, food, clothing, medical care, dental care, babysitting, school, activities, transportation, and entertainment. Some of these expenses are indirect. For example, paying the other parent’s utility bill might keep the lights on so the child can do their homework.

When it comes to insurance, courts typically expect the parent with better employee health benefits to carry the child’s medical, dental, and vision insurance plans.

Monitoring the Receiving Parent’s Expenditures

One parent might suspect that the other parent is not spending their child support funds on things child support should be used for. Parents with these suspicions often seek court intervention. 

Nevertheless, California courts will not question the receiving parent’s use of child support funds unless there is obvious evidence of child neglect. This reluctance is because the California court system “cannot place an accountant in every home.” 

Mandatory Add-ons

A California family court judge must add to what child support covers if certain expenses arise. These expenses include child care costs related to a parent’s employment as well as uninsured healthcare expenses. One parent must actually incur these expenses before a California court modifies child support payments to account for them. Typically, the judge splits these costs 50/50.

Discretionary Add-ons

A California family court judge has the discretion to order a parent to contribute to certain other child-related expenses that are not part of the child support guidelines, including:

  • Special needs for the child;
  • Travel expenses related to visitation; and
  • Extracurricular activities for the child (a soccer uniform, for example).

A parent is not necessarily responsible for their child’s college tuition. Nevertheless, if the parents agree to such an obligation in a signed writing, their signatures turn the document into an enforceable contract.

Failing To Hire a San Diego Family Lawyer Could Cost You a Lot of Money

Despite the existence of child support guidelines, child support determinations are full of uncertainty. It is only a small exaggeration to say anything could happen in a child custody proceeding. You are probably going to need a lawyer to help you, especially if the other parent has retained their own. Schedule a consultation as soon as you can.

Contact Our Child Support Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego child support lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108