Are there exceptions?
In certain rare cases, a parent may legally pay a different amount of support than what the Child Support Guidelines require. If a parent can show that the guideline amount is unjust or inappropriate because it would be unfair and not in the child’s best interest, the court can make an order for something other than the guideline amount (Family Code section 4057(b)(5)). However, the court considers child support to be the parent’s highest obligation and generally does not consider a parent’s other bills and expenses as a reason to order an amount different from the guideline.
Child support is generally required until a child turns 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school full time, living at home, and cannot support themselves.
Parents can agree to a longer period of support (for example, through college) and if it is made a part of the court order, the court will enforce this agreement.
Court ordered child support usually ends when one of the following happens:
- The child marries or registers a domestic partnership.
- The child dies.
- The child is emancipated (which means the child either obtained a court order that the child is able to live independently, or that the child lives outside the home and provides necessary support for himself or herself).
- The child turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student; or
- The child turns 19.
What if the other parent doesn’t live in the same state or country?
All states have passed the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), a law that lets courts in different states cooperate with each other and that clarifies what happens when the parties in a support case live in different states. UIFSA provides procedures for establishing parentage and a child support order when the parents live in different states. No matter where a support order is collected or enforced, it will be governed by the laws of the state in which it was issued. If another state or country establishes a child support order, that order will be based upon the child support guidelines or laws of that state or country.
Interstate cases can be very complex and cause a lot of confusion. You can contact your local child support agency for assistance in registering an out of state child support order for modification or enforcement or to assist in establishing parentage and getting a child support order. The local child support agency may also be able to assist you with parentage and child support issues if the other parent lives in another country.