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When Does Child Support Begin After Divorce?

If you are planning to get divorced and you have children, you know that child support is likely to be a part of your future. Even when parents share physical custody 50/50, the parent that earns more money will probably need to make payments to the parent who earns less in order to maintain the child’s standard of living.

But when does the obligation to pay support begin? If you need support payments to provide a home for your child, when will you start getting money?

Child support is one of the first issues you should discuss with your divorce attorney if you have children under the age of 18. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates help clients secure the right arrangements for child support, including modifying orders and enforcing obligations when necessary. Here we explain some of the basic guidelines for initiating child support and when courts may deviate from those terms.

Support Obligations Exist from the Day a Child is Born

One crucial feature to understand about California law is that both parents are obligated to support their child financially regardless of whether they are married. The duty to support a child belongs equally to both parents.

However, when one parent has custody of a child, there is an assumption that they are expending money in the child’s care. The parent who spends less time with the child may be expected to pay support to the parent who is with the child more, but support obligations take income into consideration as well as time spent with the child, so it is possible for a parent with a smaller amount of parenting time to still require financial assistance from the other parent to help support the child during the time that child is with them.

Temporary Support Can Be Ordered While a Divorce is in Progress

One spouse can ask the court for temporary child support to help meet needs during the months while divorce terms are being resolved. The support order takes effect after the court holds a hearing on the issue, but the judge can order payments to be made retroactively back to the date the request for support was filed.

Usually, a parent files a support, has a copy served on the other parent, and then that parent has nine days to respond. After that, a hearing is scheduled for the court to determine temporary support obligations.

Even if there is not a divorce case in progress, one parent can request temporary support in an emergency situation, such as if the parent takes the child out of the home to escape an abusive situation. If parents are not married, it may be necessary to legally establish parentage before support obligations can be ordered.

Parents Can Develop Their Own Plan

Regardless of whether a temporary support order is in place, parents are free to come up with their own plan for child support. However, before approving the plan, the judge is still likely to want to know what the amounts would be if calculated under the state formulas. This is referred to as the guideline amount. If the proposed agreement deviates substantially below guideline amounts, parents will need to be prepared to show justification and plans to ensure that the child’s needs will be met. For instance, the parent paying support may also be undertaking numerous other obligations on the child’s behalf or may have set up a trust fund to provide ongoing support. Overall, the agreement must serve the best interests of the child, not the parents.

Long-Term Child Support

The final divorce decree will contain a permanent support order which may be the same as the temporary order or could differ substantially. While this is referred to as a permanent order, the obligation to provide support terminates when a child turns 18 if they have graduated high school, or when  they graduate or reach the age of 19.

Permanent support orders can also be modified if one parent presents evidence of a change in circumstances that justifies amending the order.

Holstrom, Block & Parke Helps Parents Establish the Right Support Orders

Child support can be a complicated subject, and if parents do not follow the rules, they can suffer severe financial consequences. The team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC has 300+ collective years of experience helping parents gain the support terms that best meet the needs of the family. Schedule a consultation today to learn how we can help you ensure that all the factors that weigh in your favor are given full consideration in child support determinations.

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