The Basis of the Child Support Obligation

Mutual Duty of Child Support

A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.  Under California law, this means:

  1. Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.  The custodial parent is presumed to contribute some level of child support by providing a home and care for the child.
  2. Each parent should pay child support according to his or her ability.
  3. Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore improve the standard of living of the custodial parent in order to improve the lives of the children.
  4. The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources (versus public assistance) as much as possible.

No Waivers

Child support is vastly different from spousal support.  In divorce mediation, parties can agree to waive spousal support or limit the court’s ability to decide issues involving spousal support. There are no such waivers where child support is involved.

No Waiver of Child Support

The right to child support lies exclusively with the child, independent of the parental relationship or any agreement between the parents. Therefore, unlike property and spousal support provisions, parents cannot contract away child support provisions without taking the proper legal actions.  Also, a custodial parent cannot deny the other parent’s visitation solely for the reason of unpaid child support.

No Waiver of Court Jurisdiction

In contrast to spousal support, parties may not limit the court’s jurisdiction over child support.  In California, the court must retain jurisdiction to set child support. Even if the custodial parent does not request child support from the other parent, the local child support agency (DCSS in California) may pursue a case for child support on the child’s behalf anytime public assistance is requested.

Lisa L. Fiance, Esq.Lisa L. Fiance, Esq. is a family law attorney, divorce mediator, and the owner of Epiphany ADR in beautiful Oceanside, CA.  The information contained in this article is intended as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  If you have legal questions about child support, you should consult with legal counsel in the state in which you reside.