Child support is the amount of money the court orders one parent to pay the other parent every month for the support of children. California has a guideline for figuring out how much child support should be paid in all cases.

Child support payments are usually made until children turn 18, or 19 if they are still in high school fulltime, living at home, and can't support themselves. Parents may agree to support a child longer. The court also may order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child who is not self-supporting.

You may ask the judge to make a child support order when you:

  • Get a divorce, legal separation, or annulment
  • Establish parentage
  • Get a domestic violence restraining order

Either parent can later ask the judge to change the amount if the situation changes.

A client may need an attorney to obtain a child support order in an amount that complies with the state guideline. If parents can't agree on child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation, which depends on these and other factors:

  • How much money the parents earn or can earn
  • How much other income each parent receives
  • How many children these parents have together
  • How much time each parent spends with the children
  • The tax filing status of each parent
  • Support of children from other relationships
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Mandatory union dues
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • Cost of sharing daycare and uninsured health-care costs

Child support can also include the cost of such special needs as traveling for visitation from one parent to another and educational expenses.