Debunking Common Child Support Myths

In our last post, we debunked some of the more common misconceptions about spousal support. We now turn to some of the frequent myths about child support.

Myth: The court will determine my child support obligation based only on my wages. 

False. The court is authorized to look at all sources of income to determine child support. This includes a parent’s commissions, salaries, royalties, bonuses, rents, dividends, pension payments, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits, and spousal support received from a person not a party to the proceeding to establish the child support order. The court will also look at perquisites and benefits which reduce a parent’s living expenses.

Myth: If I am not working, there is nothing for me to pay.

False. If a parent is not working the court may consider the earning capacity of the parent. For example, if a parent alleges that they are unable to find employment or if they are even unwilling to work, a court may impute income to the parent based on that parent’s earning capacity, i.e. a parent’s ability to work and the opportunity for a parent to work which means an employer who is willing to hire the parent. Earning capacity is frequently proven by a vocational expert. So, just because you’re not working does not mean you are off the hook of supporting your children. Further, if you are considering making the earning capacity argument against the other parent, be prepared to hire an expert to interview the other parent and assess the other parent’s earning capacity.

Myth: It’s my right to know how the other parent spends their child support each month.

False. The recipient of child support has no obligation to account to the payor of child support how they spend their child support. If a payor of support believes that they are overpaying child support, the appropriate request is to seek a modification of child support.

Myth: Child support ends when my child turns 18.

False. In California, child support ends when the child turns 18 or 19 and graduates high school. Also, if a child has an inability to be self-supporting because of a mental or physical disability or proof of inability to find work because of factors beyond the child’s control (not college); and, is without sufficient means to avoid seeking governmental public assistance, the court may order the parents to provide support for their child after their child’s age of majority. 

Child support is a broad, complex area of law that requires the assistance of an attorney with a skilled understanding of the nuances and details of this issue. It’s best to seek the advice of an attorney to demystify the myths of child support to determine what a parent and the children are entitled to under the law.