Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

What Does Child Support Cover in California?

The California courts acknowledge that both parents must contribute to the cost of raising their children. Child support laws are decided on the state level and California uses a calculation based on the income and expenses of both parents as well as the parenting time each parent spends with the children. The court expects parents to support their children until adulthood so child support orders continue until the youngest child turns 18 or marries, joins the military, or otherwise establishes themselves as legally free. Further, support may continue until age 19 for students still attending high school.

Many parents facing child support orders wish to fully understand what child support covers in the eyes of the court in California.

Expenses California Considers When Calculating Child Support Needs

While each parent has an equal responsibility to support their children, in many cases, they don’t earn the same amount of income, carry the same amount of responsibility, or spend the same amount of time with the children. California’s formula for calculating child support takes these factors into consideration. The expenses included in the monthly calculation are the following:

  • Basic monetary support for food, shelter, and clothing
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Childcare costs
  • Education
  • Medical expenses
  • Extracurricular and entertainment expenses such as sports, music lessons, field trips, and family outings

In some cases, a child support order may include an amount for back payment and interest on the back payments owed.

Suppose only one parent has physical custody and the other visitation. In that case, the custodial parent supports the child by providing housing, food, and daily expenses for school, activities, and entertainment. In contrast, the non-custodial parent pays child support to contribute to those expenses. When parents share physical custody, the parent with the higher income typically pays support to the parent with the lower income with the amount based on careful calculation through a specific formula using each parent’s income and expenses.

What If A Child Support Payer Believes the Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Spend the Money on the Children?

Many child-support-paying parents wonder where their money goes or suspects the recipient doesn’t spend the money on their minor children. Unfortunately, the court’s stand is that there cannot be an accountant in every home to monitor expenditures. The child support-paying parent does not have a voice in how the other parent spends the money. The courts only become involved when a paying parent alleges that the children are undernourished or don’t receive the basic necessities and care they need. In this case, the burden lies on the paying parent to prove to the court that the other parent’s lack of care in the best interests of the children has a negative effect on them or endangers them.

In most cases, the courts don’t intervene unless there is significant evidence of neglect. Often, the case is that the parent who spends less time with the children doesn’t fully grasp how the money they pay contributes to their care. Child support pays for rent or mortgage payments as well as for food, clothing, daily expenses, education, after-school activities, entertainment, and vacations. It doesn’t go directly to the children but instead helps to support their overall care.