A court can establish a child support order based on the filing of a legal action requesting that it do so. The person chargeable with support must be the child's parent through marriage or through the establishment of paternity. Child support orders are generally payable until the child's 18th birthday.
In California, the amount of a child support order is determined according to the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) or child support guidelines. The guidelines work like this:
the gross income of each parent is determined and the incomes are combined;
the combined parental income is multiplied by the appropriate child support percentage; 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and not less than 35% for five or more children;
this figure is the basic child support obligation which is then divided between the parents on a pro-rata basis, according to the amount of their respective incomes and the amount of time the child spends with each parent;
additional amounts to be paid for child care, medical care not covered by health insurance, and educational expenses are determined by the court and added to the basic child support obligation; and,
the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay his/her share to the custodial parent.
The amount of child support calculated in accordance with the guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount. Either parent can offer evidence that this amount is not correct, and the court has the authority to decide the guideline amount is unjust or inappropriate. If the court orders a different amount than the basic support obligation according to the guidelines, the court must set forth its reasons for doing so in writing. Either party can object to the findings of the court.
Child support orders obtained through the child support enforcement program are made payable through the local child support agency (LCSA). All current child support collected on behalf of persons not receiving public assistance is sent to them within two days of its receipt.
If a custodial parent is not currently receiving public assistance, but did so in the past, monies collected beyond the amount of current child support may be used to repay past due support owed to the State. The LCSA sends the first $50 of current child support collected to persons receiving support from Family Assistance and Safety Net and retains the rest of the child support paid to reimburse assistance granted.
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