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What you need to know about court-ordered child support

Children are legally entitled to receive adequate support to cover their financial needs. All states follow this mandate, but it’s important to know about specific rules if you’re caring for a child in California. Parents are required to provide financial support for a child under the following circumstances: The child reaches 18 years of age, is legally emancipated from their parents, joins the military, or gets married. Children are supposed to receive child support whether their parents are married, separated, divorced, or never married.

A court order

Child support orders are often issued during divorce or when an unmarried parent seeks child support from the child’s other parent. The courts will issue an order for child support so that both parents know the terms of the order and can fulfill their specified duties. Once the family law judge issues the child support order, parents could face fines or even jail time if they do not adhere to the instructions in the order. If either parent disputes the requirements in the child support order, they can submit an appeal to the court.

Scenarios that call for child support

If a couple is divorcing and has children, the courts will likely award child support early in the divorce proceedings. The custodial parent, or the parent the child lives with most of the time, may not have enough income on their own to provide for the child. So, the parent who no longer lives in the home will likely be ordered to pay child support to ensure the child’s basic needs are covered. The payment amount is based on several factors including the non-custodial parent’s income, as well as the earning capacity of both parents.

If a couple is unmarried, the custodial parent can still request child support. The courts will likely offer a paternity test in these situations or accept the father’s acknowledgment of paternity before determining child support terms and payment amounts.