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San Diego Child Support Attorneys

California’s cost of living is higher than that in most states; so when a couple divorces in our state, child support is a central issue. Divorce is often emotionally devastating for children. The unavoidable upset at a major alteration in family structure should not be compounded by a diminished quality of life. The goal of the law in California and our San Diego child support lawyers is to ensure that children do not become victims in a divorce. The expectation is that their lifestyle should, to the greatest extent possible, continue without major changes.

The state issues guidelines for computing support, which are updated periodically. It is always beneficial to have a San Diego child support attorney to assist you when child support payments are being set. Although state guidelines are presumptive and in the absence of any argument to the contrary they will be applied by the courts, they are not etched in stone. The law has some flexibility and the court will consider individual circumstances when establishing the amount of support payments, so legal counsel is always advisable.

Child Support Legal Resources

Why Choose Us?

  • We have the size, scale and resources to address the diverse issues involved in divorce and child support cases in California.
  • We divide our legal team into specialized practice areas, allowing us to collaborate in-house on the most complicated cases.
  • We treat divorce and child support cases with tact and professionalism. We look out for the best interests of your children and family.

Determining a Child Support Award in California

Many couples can create their own child support agreements in California. A judge will sign off on the parenting plan as long as he or she agrees it serves the child’s best interests. If the couple cannot agree on a child support amount, however, the matter will go to a judge to decide. These are some of the factors that go into the determination of child support payments in California under family law, with the interests of the children having top priority:

In the State of California, there are several variables that are considered when the Family Court System determines the amount of child support that should be awarded.

Child support guidelines exist and are based on a parent’s disposable monthly income along with the amount of time that parent will spend with the child. The court considers a number of different sources when considering the amount of child support. These types of income include:

  • Each parent’s income and the amount of responsibility each contributes to the care and raising of the children
  • Mandatory payroll deductions, for example union dues and retirement account deductions
  • The parent’s circumstances, socioeconomic standing, and standard of living
  •  Disparities between the custodial and non-custodial home that may be leveled by appropriate support payments
  • The relative ability of each parent to pay for the children’s support
  • The number of children from the marriage or relationship
  • The tax filing status of each of the parents
  • Child support obligations from other relationships
  • Medical, dental, and other healthcare expenses and cost of health insurance premiums
  • Cost of daycare
  • Cost of travel for visitation
  • Educational expenses
  • A child’s special needs

The family court system will then subtract certain expenses from the parent’s income. These charges can include:

  • Taxes
  • Compulsory union dues
  • Retirement contributions
  • Health care premiums
  • Cost of raising child from a different relationship
  • Child and/or spousal support

A helpful child support calculator tool exists, however, this calculator may differ from the actual amount awarded through the court system. This calculator should be used as an estimate and not an exact number of what to expect to pay or receive through this calculator tool.

The best way to estimate what a child support award might be in your divorce case in San Diego is to contact an attorney. A lawyer from Boyd Law can review your particular case, analyzing your income and other factors to determine how much a judge might grant you or your ex-spouse in child support. We can also answer questions about other aspects of your divorce or legal separation, such as child custody or parenting rights.

Duration of Child Support in California

In San Diego, California, child support payments are mandatory until the child’s 18th birthday. However, if the child has not graduated from high school by that time, payments must continue until the child turns 19. If an agreement is in place as a part of the divorce that child support will continue beyond the child’s 19th birthday, the courts will generally enforce it. For example, if it is anticipated that the child will attend college, graduate school, or professional school, divorcing parents may make an agreement that support will continue throughout the period when the child is pursuing higher education.


Enforcing a Child Support Order

California takes child support very seriously and will assist a parent in collecting arrears. The state has laws in place to ensure that payments are kept up to date and arrears in payment are collected.

It is important to understand, however, that withholding child visitation rights because of non-payment of support is not a legal option for the parent trying to gain leverage in order to enforce payment. If you are not receiving your child support payments in a timely manner, your child support lawyer can assist you in taking the proper steps that the law provides.

What Options Do I Have If My Ex Refuses to Pay Child Support?

If your ex refuses to pay a child support order that has been granted by a judge, you have enforcement options available. If you and your ex had an informal child support agreement between the two of you, however, your enforcement options will be limited, as most court and government agencies will not have the authority to enforce the agreement. This is why it is critical to obtain an official child support order from a judge during a divorce or legal separation in San Diego.

If you run into the problem of your ex refusing to pay an official child support order, you can take the following steps for a remedy:

  1. File a Motion for Contempt. Your first step is to go to the courthouse that gave you the child support order and request the paperwork for a contempt motion. Do this as soon as possible so that you can get the money you need for childcare faster. The law in California gives you three years to file a motion of contempt for the nonpayment of child support.
  2. Go to court. After reviewing your paperwork, if the court believes that your motion meets all the legal requirements, it will hold a hearing. You or your lawyer will need to attend the hearing to prove that your ex is refusing to obey a court order. If your motion is granted, the delinquent parent can face both civil and criminal penalties. Your ex may even spend some time in jail for refusing to pay.
  3. Collect back pay. Your child support hearing may force your ex to pay all of the delinquent payments that he or she owes. If your ex cannot satisfy the back pay owed all at once, state law allows the courts to garnish his or her wages by up to 50 percent to make up for the delinquency. The courts also have the right to seize assets or sell property owned by your ex to pay what is owed, as necessary.
  4. Tap into payments your ex-spouse receives from the government. In addition to seizing assets and garnishing wages, the courts in California can intercept payments that are given to your ex-spouse from the government to pay child support. This includes disability payments, workers’ compensation, unemployment pay, Veteran’s Benefits, Social Security payments, tax refunds and retirement plans.
  5. Receive interest. If your ex-spouse consistently refused to pay child support for a long period of time, you may also be eligible for a 10 percent per annum interest penalty under California Code of Civil Procedures Section 685.010. There is an additional interest penalty between 6 percent and 72 percent if your ex falls behind on payments by more than 30 days.
  6. Contact an attorney for assistance. A child support attorney can help you with all of the steps necessary to pursue the child support payments that are owed to you by your ex-spouse. A lawyer will have resources and remedies available to help you enforce a child support order and collect on delinquent payments. Hiring a lawyer from the beginning of your case can make the legal process easier for you and your family.

Note that the courts will not hold your ex-spouse in contempt for unpaid child support if your ex can prove using evidence that he or she does not have the financial ability to make these payments at the hearing. If your ex lost his or her job, for example, he or she may not face legal trouble for missing payments. Your ex may still owe you back pay, however, for previous unpaid support. Speak to an attorney at Boyd Law for assistance if your spouse refuses to pay child support in San Diego.

Child Support Through Wage Withholding in the U.S.

Data used from the Office of Child Support Enforcement


A helpful child support calculator tool exists, however, this calculator may differ from the actual amount awarded through the court system. This calculator should be used as an estimate and not an exact number of what to expect to pay or receive when child support is determined through the court. 

Can Child Support Be Modified in California?

A parent cannot argue for a different outcome after a judge finalizes a child support order in California. The order is legally binding from its time of decree. No appeals process exists for child support judgments in divorce cases. A parent could request a child support order modification later, however, in certain situations. A support order modification is an official request submitted to a judge asking for an alteration to the original decree based on a change in circumstances.

  • Either parent lost a job
  • Either parent had a demotion or reduction in hours
  • One or both parents had a significant change in income
  • One parent is in jail
  • One parent had a child from a different relationship
  • The child is spending a different amount of time with either parent
  • The child’s needs have changed in ways that require more or less financial support
  • Other changes occurred in the conditions used to calculate the original support order

If one of these circumstances applies to you, a judge may grant your request to modify the child support order. The judge may increase or decrease the amount of the order depending on the case. It is ultimately up to the judge whether to accept or deny the modification request, as well as how much to change the original order. The judge will always decide according to what is in the child’s best interest.

How to File for Child Support Modification

A child support modification request is an official petition submitted to the courts by the person requesting the change. To file, you will need to download or obtain the appropriate documents from the courthouse that granted your divorce petition. You will need to prove that a change of circumstances has occurred since the judge made the last support order. This may require pay stubs, income documents or other types of evidence.

The only time a parent in California does not have to prove a change of circumstances is if both parents signed a written agreement for a child support amount below the court’s guideline amount. If you and your ex-spouse cannot reach an agreement for a new child support amount, you will need to file a motion with the court requesting a change instead. Never modify your support amount based on a verbal agreement with your ex-spouse. This will not be an official court order. You will still owe your ex the same amount by law. This could lead to significant debts and penalties later for not paying.

Requesting a child support order modification and proving your eligibility can be difficult in San Diego. If you want a child support modification and believe you qualify, contact an attorney for assistance with the legal process. A lawyer can look over the details of your case, confirm whether you qualify for modification and help you with the required paperwork. Your lawyer can take care of confusing legal matters for you to give you the best chance of a judge granting your request.

Can I Receive Child Support in California Before the Divorce is Final?

In California, it is possible to ask a court for temporary child support. The state has two separate types of child support orders, temporary and permanent.

The courts will determine whether or not a temporary child support order will be accommodated. The courts can factor in several variables into the request including income and assets, the amount of children involved, along with the estimated financial expenses associated with caring for each child.

After form FL-100 has been completed and filed, individuals and their legal team can ask for a temporary child support order while the case moves through the system. To request a temporary child support plan, our attorneys can complete the necessary paperwork to file a request for temporary child support.

After a temporary child support request is made, the other party involved in the case will have the right to hear the request and can voice their comments during the hearing.

How Long Do Temporary Child Support Orders in California Last?

Temporary child support orders are non-permanent by nature. Temporary support orders create a plan for child support until a permanent order is established when the divorce is finalized.

If a temporary child support order is issued, these orders may last six months or more until the divorce is finalized. The six month time frame is the minimum mandatory waiting period for a divorce in California.

Do You Have Child Support Questions? We Can Help

In San Diego, the family attorneys at the Boyd Law Firm are highly skilled and knowledgeable about the application of child support and family law in the state and have substantial experience in assisting parents in getting an appropriate award and enforcing the payment of support.

At Boyd Law, we understand your concerns about being able to provide an appropriate lifestyle for your children. Let Boyd Law take care of the legal side to your child support issues to ensure that the award is appropriate and fair and will allow your children to grow and thrive, with all the same opportunities they would have had if the marriage had survived. We offer a free, no-obligation initial consultation. Contact Boyd Law today at our San Diego office to arrange a time to meet with us to discuss your child support matter and receive quality legal advice.