This webpage covers common concerns about the subject of
and the legal procedures for establishing, changing,
and collecting on a support order.
Clicking on any of the topics below will take you directly
to the section that provides
that information. However, you are encouraged to read
the entire webpage to find out
information you might not know you need.
of parents to support their children and the priority of child support
orders over all other kinds of debt
amount of child support is determined under statewide guidelines and what
other expenses are included in a child support order
to prepare an order for an agreed amount of child support that meets the
requirements of the law
does a child support order last? Does the collection of money from my paycheck
automatically stop when my child reaches a certain age?
I obtain a child support order?
do I go for help?
I enforce my order for Child Support?
The following links will
take you to a separate page on the website. Return to this page with your
browser's "back" or "go" commands if you did not finish the topic of Child
Support before leaving:
is an Order to Show Cause and what is involved in bringing or defending
A parent's first and principal obligation
is to support his/her minor children
A parent shall pay the court-ordered
child support payment as the first priority before payment of
any debts owed to creditors. (Fam.Code,
§ 4011.) Your other credtiors cannot put you in jail if you do
not pay them. You can be sent to jail,
fined, and/or ordered to perform community service for a willful
refusal to pay your court ordered child support. (This is true for spousal
support obligations as well.)
However, the nonpayment of support does not provide a basis
for refusing to let the delinquent parent have access to the child; nor
does the refusal to allow access to the child provide an excuse for not
paying support. (Fam.Code,
Each parent has an equal responsibility
to support the child. (Fam.Code,
The guideline considers each parent's
actual income or earning capacity and the amount of time each parent has
the child in his or her care. (Fam.Code,
The formula is based on net income as defined in the
guideline law. The court is required to determine net income as it would
be shown after filing a tax return and not as it is shown in the parents'
§ 4059.) Therefore, it is usually not possible to determine the
exact amount of child support unless you have access to one of the state-approved
computer software programs specifically designed for the calculation of
You can obtain assistance with a guideline calculation of
child support from an attorney who practices Family Law, from some paralegals,
and from the court's Family Law Facilitator.
The court will allow a deduction for the amount of child
support you are ordered to pay and are actually paying for another child.
The court may allow deductions from
net income for extreme financial hardship due to justifiable
expenses, such as, extraordinary health expenses,
uninsured catastrophic losses, and minimum basic living expenses of natural
or adopted children who reside with the parent. (Fam.Code,
§ 4059; Fam.Code,
§ 4070-4073.) You must be prepared to prove the actual amounts
spent for any hardship allowance you are seeking.
No hardship deduction from a parent's net income is allowed
for another supported child if any of the children of that parent receive
No hardship allowance is made for your step-children even
if yours is the only income that is supporting them (Fam.Code,
Courts are required to add to basic
child support payments (Fam.Code,
§ 4062) the costs for
and the court has the discretion to add to basic child support
payments the costs for
child care related to
work or reasonable and necessary education/training;
reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children.
educational or other special needs of the children;
travel expenses for visitation.
The court must also order health
insurance to be maintained by either
or both parents if the insurance is available at no cost or at reasonable
cost compared to your income. (Fam.Code,
The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements
of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.
The amount calculated under the guideline is presumed to
be correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances will the
court set child support orders below the child support mandated by the
guideline formula. (Fam.Code,
§ 4057.) You and the child's other parent may agree to an amount
of child support above or below the guideline amount. (Fam.Code,
§ 4065.) The court can only approve an agreement lower
than the guideline amount if
the recipient of support has not assigned the right to receive
support to a public agency (unless the District Attorney signs the agreement
before it is presented in court for filing)
the parents state that their agreement is in the child's
best interest and that the amount is sufficient to adequately meet the
the parents state that they are fully informed of their rights
concerning child support
the parents state that the order is being agreed to without
coercion or duress
the parents set forth in their agreement that they know how
much the guideline calls for and that they understand the amount they agree
upon may be changed at any time without the need to show that circumstances
have changed in the meantime
The Judicial Council has prepared a Stipulation
to Establish or Modify Child Support and Orders (Form 1285.27).
It has all the language required by law for a child support agreement to
be approved by the court, and it is preferred that you use that form in
presenting your agreement to the court
Duration of Child Support
Support continues until age 18
if the child is no longer attending high school as a full time student,
until age 19 while still in high school full time, until completion
of 12th grade while older than 18 but younger than 19, or if
child marries or becomes self-supporting (emancipated) before
reaching the age of majority. A
child is entitled to child support beyond this period. (Fam.Code,
If your earnings are being taken by a wage assignment for
the support of your child, it does not automatically stop when a child
attains the age of majority. You must obtain a court order to stop the
wages from being automatically paid to the other parent. The easiest way
is for you and the other parent to file a written agreement to terminate
child support. If the parent who is receiving support will not sign such
an agreement, you must serve and file an order
to show cause to terminate child support.
Getting an order for child support
Before you can get an order for child support, you need to
have a case filed with the Court. If there is not an existing case,
you need to file one:
If you have an already existing case you must
file your request using the case number of that case in the courthouse
where the case file is located.
You have several alternatives available to you to assist
you in getting an order:
Representation and Assistance
You can contact an attorney for legal advice or to represent
you by looking in the telephone book or calling a Lawyer
Referral Service .
If you are the parent seeking the payment of child support
you may ask the District Attorney to bring an action or file enforcement
or modification proceedings in an existing case. The District Attorney
can help you with child support only and not with any other family issues
such as custody, property, or a divorce. If you want custody or visitation
orders in addition to child support, you must file your own divorce or
paternity case. Contact
the District Attorney Family Support Division.
You can contact a paralegal to prepare documents, but remember
that a paralegal is not licensed to practice law and cannot give you any
legal advice, especially about important rights you might have.
The court recognizes that for many people hiring an attorney
is not an option, whether for economic reasons or for personal reasons.
Nevertheless, the position of all of the Family Law webpages is:
You can represent yourself. (Before you choose to do this,
please read the webpage about Resources
and Assistance for some common sense advice to those who are considering
at risk when you represent yourself in a court of law. If you cannot afford
to obtain counsel to represent you, at least seek some form of legal advice
before you set forth on your own.
You can purchase self-help resources at various booksellers
and borrow them at public libraries. The Los
Angeles County Law Library is located at 301 W 1st St. between
Broadway and Hill in downtown Los Angeles across the street from the Central
Civil Courthouse, and there are branch
law libraries in some of the District Courthouses. There are also
libraries located in various law schools in the area. Some general
public libraries that do not specialize in law books may have legal self-help
You may look
up online various provisions of the Family Code and other California Codes
that may pertain to your case at the website maintained by the California
Legislature. In representing yourself you should
be aware that merely knowing the language of a code section may be insufficient
knowledge since the court is also directed by published cases
decided by California appellate courts that guide in interpreting those
In representing yourself you will also be responsible for
knowing the California
Rules of Court and the Los
Angeles County Court rules that apply to the conduct and processing
of Family Law cases. (Other rules of court than those specifically geared
toward Family Law cases may also apply, so you may have to familiarize
yourself with more court rules than the ones directly linked above.)
Here are links to two of the most frequently used codes in
a Family Law court:
If you decide to represent yourself you will be expected
to prepare and present your case like a lawyer and you will not be given
special consideration even if you are opposed by a trained Family Law attorney
representing the other party. It is a good idea to seek and obtain competent
legal advice and representation if you can afford to do so.
You can obtain legal forms in the Clerk's Office at each
County Courthouse. You can also download
current forms from the Judicial Council's website.
Go to the court's webpage on Order
to Show Cause Procedures for direct links to some of the law and
most of the forms used in child support proceedings.
If you are not represented by counsel, you are encouraged
to seek the assistance of the Family
Law Facilitator for
The Office of the Family Law Facilitator was created in 1998-99
for just those purposes, and there is a representative in each Los Angeles
County courthouse in which Family Law cases are heard. Click the link above
for locations, telephone numbers and hours.
help in selecting the correct forms to use
making sure your papers have been filled out correctly and
calculating child support
assistance in arriving at an agreement with the other parent
on issues of support, and general assistance with information needed in
obtaining or defending against a child or spousal support order
Enforcing an Order for Child
Frequently Asked Questions
I have remarried. Is my spouse's income going to be
counted for child support?
Generally, the Court will only use the parents' income
for calculation of child support. However, the Court must consider
your spouse's income for the purpose of determining your own net-after-tax
income if you file Married, Joint tax returns. In unusual cases, it may
consider your spouse's income for other purposes. (Fam.Code,
How do I stop the Wage and Earning Assignment Order if
I do not have to pay any more child support because the child is too old?
If the other parent will not sign an agreement to terminate
child support that you can file with the court, you must file an Order
To Show Cause (or a Notice of Motion) requesting the Court to terminate
the wage assignment. When the Court grants your request, the judicial
officer will sign a new wage assignment for zero to take to your employer.
(See the discussion of this topic under Duration
of Child Support on this webpage.)
Do I still have to pay child support if I have 50/50 custody?
If you have higher income than the other parent, you
may still have to pay some child support.
Will the Court consider that I have other children to
If the other parent is receiving public assistance for
the child(ren), then the Court can consider other court ordered child support
that you are actually paying to the parent of that child, but the Court
cannot give you credit for children living in your home that you may be
Will my support go down if I have the child(ren) more
If the other parent is not receiving any public assistance,
then the Court can give you credit for other court orders for child support
and for children in your home that you are supporting. Be prepared to prove
your actual expenses for such children, however.
Generally, you cannot receive credit for supporting step
children, foster children, or grandchildren.
The amount of time that the child is in your custody
is a factor in calculating child support. Generally speaking, the
more time you have the child, the lower your child support will be because
the time the child spends in your home is reducing the expenses of the
custodial parent and increasing your own.
Can I get rid of the interest accruing on the child support
Generally speaking, the Court cannot reduce or forgive
interest on past due child support. Consult an attorney.
How do I stop them from taking half my paycheck?
If your employer is deducting up to 50% or more of your
check, then you may have a very large arrearage (past due child support).
You should first contact
the District Attorney Family Support Division (if the District
Attorney is involved in the case) to see if you can make arrangements with
them. If that does not work, then you may need to file a motion with
the Court to ask a judicial officer to set a payment on the arrearages
that you can afford.
What if the other party does not pay the child support?