Ending a marriage or serious relationship as a parent is not easy; especially when you are splitting from your child’s other parent. Under these circumstances, you may be ending a romantic, intimate relationship, but you will still be connected to one another through your child.

As such, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the laws and expectations regarding child support. Whether you pay or receive it, child support can be something you deal with for years to come, so it is wise to understand the basics.

Lesson #1: It is not a punishment

Paying child support is not a punishment; it does not reflect that you are an inadequate parent. Rather, it is a means of ensuring both parents contribute to a child’s well-being. It also reflects the fact that both parents have a legal responsibility to support the child.

Lesson #2: The amount is not arbitrary

When it comes to calculating support, there are specific guidelines in place to safeguard against unfair or inappropriate orders. A child support calculator is utilized that uses information like the number of children, a parent’s taxable income, deductions and forms of public assistance to determine how much a parent will be required to pay.

Lesson #3: There are penalties for non-payment

If a parent does not comply with an order for child support, there are consequences. Delinquency can result in the loss of driver’s or professional licenses, withheld tax refunds, damage to a parent’s credit score and possible criminal charges leading to jail time. These are serious penalties, so it is crucial to stay current with support orders.

Lesson #4: Every case is different

Every case is different, and every family has different concerns and needs. Parents may want to seek more or less in support, there may be concerns over whether someone has a legal obligation to pay child support, or parents may want to modify an existing order. In other words, every situation warrants specific guidance and attention.

These represent just a few of the basic facts about child support in California, but they can help parents understand the fundamental elements of their situation involving child support. However, for more support and advice relating to a specific situation, parents can consult an attorney.