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As a Southern California divorce lawyer with nearly two decades of experience, I believe that an educated client is an empowered client.  I strive to provide all my clients with the legal knowledge that they need to fully understand and evaluate their options.  With that goal in mind, here I provide the answers to some of the questions I am most often asked about child support.

How can I get a court to order child support?

Before parents can address the issue of child support, there must be an underlying legal action. If the parents are married, either the mother or father must first file an action requesting a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or nullity. If the parents are unmarried, either the mother or father must file an action to establish the parental relationship (a paternity case).

How is child support calculated?

California has a statewide formula or guideline for calculating the amount of child support that one parent must pay to the other.  If parents are unable to agree on child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline.

These factors, among others, are figured into the calculation:

  • The amount of money each parent earns or is capable of earning.
  • The amount of income, other than earnings, each parent receives.
  • The number of children the parents have with each other.
  • The amount of time the children live with each parent.
  • Each parent’s tax filing status.
  • The amount each parent has to pay to support children from other relationships.
  • Health insurance expenses.
  • Mandatory union dues.
  • Mandatory retirement contributions.
  • Daycare and uninsured health-care expenses.


In addition, child support can include the cost of special needs like education expenses and cost of travel for visitation from one parent to the other.

Can parents agree on an amount of child support other than the guideline amount?

Parents can agree on a “non-guideline” support amount, but only if they meet certain requirements.  The parents must:

  • Fully understand their rights to child support;
  • Know the guideline child support amount;
  • Believe that the child support amount they agree to is in the best interest of the children; and
  • Have a judge approve the amount of child support payments.

In addition the parents must not:

  • Be pressured or forced to agree to this child support amount;
  • Be receiving public assistance; or
  • Have applied for public assistance.

Once the judge orders child support, under what circumstances can the amount be increased or decreased?

There are instances where you can properly seek to increase or decrease support levels including loss of a job, parenting time-shares change. We encourage you to seek legal advice specific to your case.

If the judge ordered a child support amount below the guideline amount, you can ask to change that amount at any time. A change in circumstances is NOT required.

When does the obligation to pay court-ordered child support end?

Usually, court ordered child support ends when the child:

  • Turns 18 and is not a full time high school student or turns 19, whichever occurs first.
  • Is emancipated.
  • Marries or registers a domestic partnership.

Parents may agree to support a child longer. The court may also order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child who is not self-supporting.

Contact me, Lisa Zonder, in Ventura County, today:

The information provided above is for general educational purposes only.  It is not intended as specific legal advice for your case. My staff and I are relatable, accessible, and understanding.  I work hard to provide clients with lots of options and to get things done efficiently and cost-effectively.


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Hello, I'm Lisa Zonder

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Certified Family Law Specialist since 1999.

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