Under California law, parents are responsible for the living and medical expenses of their child until age 18, or until age 19 for a child who is still in high school. In order to ensure the provision of this financial support, California courts may order one or both parents to make regular child support payments.
Although people often think of child support as covering only basic expenses, those funds may actually apply to a large range of expenses associated with raising a child. In addition to basic living expenses such as food, shelter, and clothing, child support may also fund various educational fees and expenses, the cost of travel to and from extracurricular activities, and even the cost of certain entertainment expenses or special lessons or tutors.
Most parents expect that child support covers medical expenses. However, not all medical expenses are foreseeable. If a child suffers a catastrophic injury or develops a serious illness, the cost of medical care may suddenly increase exponentially. While child support funds might be appropriately applied to these costs, regular child support payments may be insufficient to meet these extraordinary medical expenses. In such circumstances, a court may intervene to modify an existing child support order or to prescribe a payment system for extraordinary costs incurred beyond certain basic medical or dental expenses.
Sometimes, a parent's financial situation may also shift unexpectedly. In such cases of altered expense or means, it may be advisable to seek legal guidance from a family law attorney. A family lawyer can explain the child support process in greater detail and advise a parent on the most sound legal strategy, regardless of whether the parent makes or receives the child support payments.
Source: Findlaw, "What Does Child Support Cover?", December 24, 2014