A common part of any Sacramento divorce and custody process is figuring out the child support issue and calculation who owes child support.  Child support is commonly misunderstood by both parties to a Sacramento child support case and it is a source of conflict between divorcing or separating couples.  Thus it is important for both the parent paying child support and the parent receiving child support to understand the important legal reasons behind child support.

California law establishes many important principles relating to child support.  First and foremost, it is each parent’s first obligation to support their child according to their financial abilities.  This obligation supersedes a parent’s obligation for their mortgage, car, tax debts, personal expenses, and all other discretionary expenses.  Both parents have an equal duty to support their child to the best of their ability.  The court considers each parent’s actual income and present level of responsibility (custodial timeshare) for their child.  Second, the child should share in the standard of living of both parents.  Child support therefore is meant to improve the custodial parent’s household and therefore the children’s overall standard of living.

Third, the child’s needs should be met with private financial resources before the state’s resources are utilized.  Fourth, the law presumes that the custodial parent utilizes a significant amount of their resources for the support of the child.  Fifth, the courts utilize a guideline support computer calculator that considers the incomes of both parents, the custodial timeshare each parent has with the children, and certain specified expenses such as health insurance, non-reimbursed work expenses, mandatory retirement, and union dues.  This guideline calculator is presumed correct as a matter of law unless unique special circumstances exist.

In California, child support is the right of the child, not a right of either parent.  Thus, it is against public policy and legally unenforceable for the parents to “agree” to waive child support because the right is not theirs to waive.  At any time before the child turns 18 and is graduated from high school (or if attending a continuing high school degree program, then 19 years of age), either parent can request basic “guideline” child support and the court will calculate and award it regardless of any previous written agreement to not seek child support.

If you are involved in a Sacramento child support case, and you would like to discuss these importance public policy factors and calculation methods further, please give our office a call.  We are experienced family law attorneys and we can help you identify important issues in Sacramento child support law.