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In California, dissolution cases are required to proceed in a manner that places paramount importance on what is in the best interest of children. Accordingly, for divorce actions involving children, the question of child support is an early and continuing matter of priority for the parties and the court.
Once the parties' rights concerning custody and visitation of the children is established, the parties and the court will consider and resolve the parties' parental responsibility for the children. Parental responsibility covers a broad range of undertakings parents perform for their children. One such undertaking is the parental responsibility for the payment of child support for children under the age of eighteen (18) years or an adult child for whom support is needed on a continuing basis and authorized by the court. Both parents are responsible for providing financial support to their minor children and adult children with special needs. The level of support may differ between the parents based on income available for support, custody and visitation and other factors.
California has adopted statewide uniform guideline to inform the court in making child support orders. The guidelines provide for a complex calculation, the interpretation of which is difficult for most parents. For example, income available for support is generally determined based on gross income. However, the guidelines provide for mandatory and discretionary exclusions from gross income (e.g., deductions for contributions to a retirement account and circumstances of hardship). With the children's best interests in mind, the totality of a parties' separate assets, including rental income, may be considered in child support calculations and often the court is required to determine whether a party's current income reasonably reflects the party's true earning capacity.
At its base, California's child support guidelines calculate and allocate child support based on parents' respective income, the number of children for whom support is payable and the time during which each parent has physical custody of the child.
In an order for child support, the court must require that health insurance coverage is provided for the child(ren) by either or both parents, provided if it is available at a reasonable cost.
In California, a child support order normally terminates when:
Child support is payable as directed in the court's order. Substantial penalties accrue for failure to comply with the order for support, such as the accrual of interest at the legal rate of 10%, which accrue as a matter of law for each payment missed.