In the state of California, both parents are equally responsible for providing financially for their child. However, it is not automatic that a parent will be responsible for making child support payments. Instead, a custodial parent must ask a judge to make an order of support that generally lasts until the child is 18 years old. Prior to creating a support order, paternity may need to be established.
If parents are married, child support may be requested as part of a divorce, separation or annulment. A request for support may also be made in cases in which an individual wishes to establish a parental relationship with a child or as part of a restraining order after an episode of domestic violence. The petition to establish a parental relationship applies to parents of children who are unmarried.
A local child support agency may require that one or both parents pay child support if the child receives services. It may also start a case against one or both parents if the child is in foster care. Parents may also voluntarily ask that a LCSA to take over enforcement of a case or ask for services, which would then start a child support case.
Parents are generally required to pay child support in order to fulfill the best interests of the child. When parents support their children, it may lessen the burden on public service providers, which may offer a benefit to society in general. An individual may talk with a lawyer about asking for child support or having a current order modified. It is important to note that even if a current order is modified, any past due support must still be paid to avoid possible jail time or other legal consequences.