What Child Support Does and Does Not Cover

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Many divorced parents who are paying child support complain that the receiving parent spends the money on himself or herself. In order to prevent the receiving parent from personally using the money, it is very common for the parent paying child support to want restrictions imposed on what child support can be spent on. However, even if the child support funds are used inappropriately, California law does not allow an enforcement of any restriction on how child support is spent because judges realistically cannot interfere with and meddle in decisions of child support expenditures.

Calculation of Child Support

The main factors that a court considers when determining child support payments are the number of children, tax deductions available to each parent, how much each parent earns or can earn, and how much time each parent has primary responsibility of the children. The formula is the same in most California courts. An experienced family law attorney can help you work out the numbers in your situation.

How Long do Child Support Orders Stay Active?

In most divorce cases in California, a child support order lasts until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. At that point, the law considers the child able to be self-sufficient, and as such, permits the parent to stop paying child support. California courts cannot require parents, even if very wealthy, to pay for college expenses once the child is of adult age.

Use of Child Support

There are certain expenses that courts can add to the child support calculation, such as healthcare and childcare. Child support generally covers direct expenditures of the child, including particularly clothing and food. In addition, some of the funds also cover a portion of household costs for the house the child lives in and automobile costs for the car the parent drives the child around in. However, additional costs like private school, private tutoring, recreational activities (for example, dance and sports), cars, car insurance, and college are generally not included. The law does not provide for any of these expenses under child support. Either a parent has to separately save for that or the child will have to bear those costs on his or her own. Nevertheless, even though the law has no requirement or duty for parents to assist in paying college costs for their children, the court will enforce a written agreement by divorcing parents that have to do with funding college. Talk to your divorce attorney about including a clause like this in your divorce settlement.

Child Support Agreements

Parents can make their own agreement pertaining to child support and submit it to the court for review and approval. If you have agreed in writing to help pay for certain costs, including college funding, that agreement is enforceable by the court. Make sure you have the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney when drafting any type of written agreement.

For more information on costs relating to child support, calculating child support payments, or general questions about filing for divorce in California, contact the expert family lawyers in Los Angeles at Walzer Melcer LLP.