When parents separate, each parent is equally responsible for providing for the financial needs of their children. If the parents cannot agree about child support, the court may get involved and make an order for child support. Child support is usually required until the children turn 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school full time).
To get a child support order:
- Either parent can ask the judge to make a child support order, or
Either parent can go to the Mendocino Department of Child Support Services to get help in opening a child support case, paying and collecting child support payments, or enforcing a child support order that was already made in another family law case.
You can also work out an agreement with the other parent.
How to Get or Change a Child Support Order
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree to child support, one of you will have to file papers in court to ask for it. Child support can also be ordered as part of a case filed by the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS).
To ask for a court date you must have a new or existing case with the other parent of your children for one of the following as appropriate:
- Divorce or legal separation
- Parentage (paternity)
- Domestic violence restraining order
- Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
- Child support case with the local child support agency
If you need to respond to child support papers filed by the other parent, do so right away. The Self-Help Center can help you.
Visite Manutención de los hijos, de las Cortes de California, para obtener información en español sobre cómo pedir la manutención y qué pasos ha de seguir.
Once you have an open case and want to get your first custody and visitation order OR want to change an existing order, you will need to:
- Request for Order (FL-300). You can use the Information Sheet for Request for Order (FL-300-INFO) for information.
- If you cannot afford the filing fee, ask for a fee waiver using forms FW-001 and FW-003.
How Child Support is Calculated
California has a statewide formula (called a "guideline") to determine how much child support should be paid.
If the parents cannot agree on an amount, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation.
The guideline calculation mainly takes into account:
- How much money the parents earn or can earn,
- How much other income each parent receives (like rental income or unemployment or disability),
- How many children the parents have together,
- How much time each parent spends with their children,
- The tax filing status of each parent,
- Support of children from other relationships (not counting step-children),
- Health insurance costs,
- Mandatory union dues, and
- Mandatory (not voluntary) retirement contributions.
The child support order may also order the parents to share the costs for:
- Child care to allow the parent to work or to get training or education for work skills,
- Children’s reasonable health-care expenses,
- Traveling for visitation from one parent to another,
- Children’s educational needs, and
- Other special needs of the children.
The judge may order something different than the guideline amount in very limited cases. The Self-Help Center can help you understand what kinds of cases may be exceptions.
To estimate how much child support the judge may order in your case, go to the California Guideline Child Support Calculator. To understand how to fill in the information in the Child Support Calculator, download the User Guide.
Keep in mind that using the Calculator on your own can be confusing. If you do not put in the numbers in the right places, you may get the wrong results. So get help from the Self-Help Center if you want to make sure your calculations are right.