There is no rule in California that states that the father will always be the one to pay child support. The courts will make an unbiased decision based on circumstances such as child custody and each parent’s income. Mothers are not exempt from California’s child support laws. If the mother is a higher earner than the child’s father, or if the father has custody, the mother will be expected to pay child support to contribute to the expenses of caring for the child.
What Determines Child Support?
Although every state has its own unique laws regarding child support in a divorce case, most use a similar system to decide who has to pay. Section 4055 of California’s Family Code has the state’s formula for determining child support. It uses the amount of both parents’ income to be allocated for child support, the higher earner’s net monthly disposable income, the percentage of time the higher earner will have primary physical custody of the child compared to the other parent and the total net monthly disposable income of both parties.
The parent with a higher net monthly disposable income will be responsible for paying child support, in most cases. The equation will also determine the amount, which will be a reasonable number based on how much the parent makes and what the child requires in expenses. If the mother is the higher earner out of the two parents, he or she will have to pay child support.
If the mother is the higher earner and has primary custody, this may mean that she is responsible for a greater portion of the childcare expenses. If the mother does not have primary custody, she may have to pay the father a certain amount in child support each month to bridge the gap between what either parent spends in child care.
Do Higher Earners Generally Have to Pay Child Support?
Yes, the higher-earning spouse generally has to pay child support in a divorce case in California. In ordinary cases, the courts will use the child support calculator to determine which spouse will be responsible for paying, as well as the appropriate amount. However, the courts have the power to deviate from the child support calculator in extraordinary cases.
If one parent has an extremely high income, for example, and the amount the calculator would have him or her pay is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances, the courts can reduce the child support responsibility to suit the needs of the child. The higher-earning parent has the right to request a reduction if he or she believes that the other parent’s demands or the child support calculator are unreasonable.
Can a Parent Modify a Child Support Order?
Once a court grants a child support order, the paying spouse must obey its terms. Ignoring the order or failing to pay child support can lead to wage garnishment and additional penalties, such as interest on the payments or being held in contempt of court. If the paying party loses his or her job, however, or suffers another significant change in financial circumstance, that parent can petition the court for a child support order modification.
The courts in California will only grant a modification request if the paying parent has a valid reason to ask for the alteration. Common reasons include the loss of a job, demotion, incarceration, a change in child custody and a change in the child’s needs. The parent will have to prove that his or her circumstances have drastically changed since the child support order was made for a modification.
If you have further questions about child support in Orange County, contact an experienced divorce attorney near you. Each case is unique. An attorney can review the specific facts of your divorce to help with your legal matter.