Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Child Support in California

Child support is the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay every month to help pay for the support of their child (or children) and the child’s living expenses.  The amount of child support ordered is based on guidelines created by California’s Family Code Sections 4050 through 4076.  These guidelines include, among other things, how much time each parent spends with the child, the income of each parent, the specific needs of the child, the child’s age and even tax deductions.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding child support obligations.  For more information, visit the California government website at

Do I still have to pay child support if I have 50 percent of custody?

If you make more money than the other parent, you will still have to pay child support or share costs, such as uninsured medical costs and employment-related costs.

When determining child support, will the court take into consideration that I have other children to support?

If you have other child support orders and you are, in fact, paying for the support of other children, the court can give you credit. The court does not usually allow credit for stepchildren or grandchildren.

Will I pay less in child support if I spend more time with my children?

Not necessarily.  How much time each parent spends with the children is a factor in determining child support.  However, the child support formula that is used is complicated and includes such factors as the other parent’s income and whether public assistance (usually welfare) is involved.

Can I go to jail for not paying court ordered child support?

Yes, if the failure to pay support is willful, the court can find the payor in contempt and sentence them to jail.

Is child support stopped when the parent who is supposed to pay is in jail?

Child support payments are usually stopped (temporarily suspended) if the payor of support is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized for more than 90 consecutive days.  Once the payor is released, the support begins again.  There are three exceptions to this law:  if the payor has the financial ability to pay the support while incarcerated; if the payor is incarcerated because of domestic violence; or the payor was incarcerated for failing to pay child support in the first place.