The obligation to pay child support is taken very seriously under California law. It is treated far differently from spousal support, for instance. The legal obligation to pay child support extends until the child reaches the age of 18, becomes emancipated, or is otherwise self-supporting.
Despite having to make the payment for child support to an ex-spouse or to the child's other parent (with whom there may be strained relations), it is helpful to remember that the payment is a right legally held by the child, and not the person to whom the money is being sent. For some, it is painful to think about sending payment to the other parent especially when there has been trouble with that relationship or animosity. Still, it may help to think of it as help meant for the child's proper care and upbringing.
Child support payments are meant to cover a broad range of expenses that a child requires. It is not necessarily just for the bare necessities of food, shelter and clothing. It can cover things such as medical expenses, education and school fees, entertainment and the child's extracurricular activities. The goal is to ensure that the child's lifestyle does not change drastically from what it was when the child had both parents together.
For example, if a child is used to going to private school and has played extracurricular sports for his whole life, a child support order will likely reflect that and ensure that the child is able to continue with those activities.
Child support payments must be made monthly starting on the date ordered by the judge. In every case, the order will state that a wage assignment (garnishment) be issued and served. The wage assignment tells an employer to take the child support payment out of the parent-employee's wages. If the parents are both able to agree to give and receive payment another way, they can ask that the service of the wage assignment be "stayed" or put on hold. This way, the parents can work out their own method of paying and receiving child support from one another.
If a local child support agency is involved, it is still possible to ask them to put the wage assignment on hold, however, they will have to agree to this. Child support agencies generally prefer that a child support payment be taken out from the wages that it goes through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU helps track, collect and send out child support payments all over the state. This is preferable for the state agency because of the ease of administration. It also eliminates the need for there to be direct contact between the parents of the children in order to pay or receive the child support payment. This is especially helpful in cases where there is animosity between the two parents.
However, it is possible to go about making child support payments in other ways. As long as the parents can agree to an arrangement for payment, there are procedures in place that will help achieve that end. It may be wise to consult an attorney prior to setting something up independently just so that parents can ensure that procedural safeguards are in place to ensure the child receives everything he or she needs.
Contact a local family attorney if you have questions or need legal help with California child support payments.
Contact a qualified attorney.