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The basics of child support in California

Child support is the amount of money, determined by the court, that one or both parents must pay as part of their duty to provide for their child. There are many factors involved in making a child support decision during divorce proceedings, including income, time spent with the child and the child's own financial needs. The state uses a basic formula to determine child support for most cases. The state also offers parents free assistance from a family law facilitator to help with child support documents.

Income is the primary factor when determining child support. The child support formula examines a parent's disposable income, which is income after taxes and certain other obligatory expenses. The more a parent makes, the more they will likely have to pay in child support. The court then factors in how much time the parent spends with the child. The more time spent, the less child support is expected. A joint custody situation or a situation with frequent visitation is likely to result in less child support being required than if there is minimal or no visitation.

The other important aspect of child support is parentage. This is automatically assigned by law to the birth mother, but unless the father is married to the mother at the time of birth, paternity is not automatically granted. Child support can only be ordered from the father once paternity is legally established. Unmarried mothers seeking child support from fathers may need to go through the process of ordering and proving paternity.

Child support can become a complicated legal matter, and the free facilitator may not be able to help with all issues. Paying child support is a court order, and a failure to pay can result in a contempt charge. Those who need to establish child support or modify an existing order may wish to contact an attorney for assistance.

Source: FindLaw, 'California Child Support Guidelines," Jan. 14, 2015.

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