Child Support California

In California, the parent who does not have physical custody will almost always be ordered to pay child support. The parent who does not have primary custody who pays support is called the “Obligor.” The person who receives child support is called the "Obligee."

Calculating Child Support

California law considers a mother and father’s most important obligation to be the support of their child or children. These laws place a direct correlation between parenting time and child support. The parent with physical custody of the child/children is presumed to contribute the majority of his or her resources to his or her child. There is a statutory formula that the court uses to determine how much child support a parent or parents is required to pay. If you want the court to deviate from this formula, an exception must apply. One frequently used exception is when the parties stipulate, or agree, to a different amount of child support than what the formula would have required. California courts determine child support by using a computer based calculator, which calculates the appropriate amount of child support according to the Guidelines in the California Family Code in conjunction with information regarding each parents income and time spent with the child. You may access this calculator by visiting

In addition to the basic child support, a child support order may require that parents share the cost of child support “add-on” expenses. These add-on expenses usually include the cost of health insurance for the child, unreimbursed health care expenses (such as co-payments), and a share of any necessary child care expenses. Discretionary add-on expenses may include educational expenses, religious education, and extracurricular activities. Typically, add-on expenses are shared on a pro-rata basis, in proportion to the parties’ income.

Wage Withholding

Most California courts require that a Wage Assignment be signed by the judge in a divorce where child support is ordered. This is an order by the court that the employer of the parent who is ordered to pay support must take the child support out of the employee’s pay check and mail it in to the state for payment of support.

When the local child support agency (LCSA) is NOT involved, both parents can agree that payments can be made in some other way and can ask that service of the wage assignment (sending the wage assignment to the employer) be "stayed" (put on hold). In this situation, the parents work out how child support will be paid and handle it between them.

If the LCSA is involved, they have to agree to have the wage assignment "stayed." The LCSA will most likely want an active wage assignment in place with the employer if they are involved in the case. They will also want all child support payments to go through the State Disbursement Unit.

Failure to Pay Child Support

California courts do not look kindly at those parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support. If a parent fails to pay child support, that parent could be held in contempt of court, have their driver’s license suspended, have their IRS refunds seized, and/or can go to jail.