Child Support & Visitation

Child Support


Each parent is equally responsible for providing for the financial needs of his or her child. But the court cannot enforce this obligation until it makes an order for support. When parents separate, a parent must ask the court to make an order establishing parentage (paternity) and also ask the court to make an order for child support.

Child support payments are usually made until children turn 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school full time, living at home, and cannot support themselves). 

Either parent can ask the judge to make a child support order as part of one of these types of cases:

Divorce, legal separation, or annulment (for parents who are married or in a registered domestic partnership);

A Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (for unmarried parents); 

A domestic violence restraining order (for married or unmarried parents); 


A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (for parents who have signed a voluntary Declaration of Paternity OR are married, or registered domestic partners, and do not want to get legally separated or divorced)

Calculating Child Support


California has a statewide formula (called a "guideline") for figuring out how much child support should be paid.

If parents cannot agree on child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation.

The guideline calculation depends on:

How much money the parents earn or can earn;

How much other income each parent receives;

How many children these parents have together;

How much time each parent spends with their children (time-share); ( child visitation)

The actual tax filing status of each parent;

Support of children from other relationships;

Health insurance expenses;

Mandatory union dues;

Mandatory retirement contributions;

The cost of sharing daycare and uninsured health-care costs; and

Other factors.

Changing Child Support


Depending on the situation, either parent might want to change the amount of child support that is paid.  Changes in child support often make sense if either parent has had a significant change related to:

His or her income,

The other parent's income, or

The amount of time that each parent spends with the child.

Once you ask the court to modify the amount of child support, the court will make its decision based on the current circumstances (mainly both parents' income and time-share with the child).   This means that the child support amount could go either up or down.

We guide you throughout the entire process and help you get the fair amount your child deserves.


 In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share custody. The judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement (the parenting plan) that both parents agree on. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing. The judge will usually not make a decision about custody and visitation until after the parents have met with a mediator from Family Court Services.

There are two kinds of child custody:

  • Legal custody, which means who makes important decisions for your children (like health care, education, and welfare), and
  • Physical custody, which means who your children live with.

Legal custody can be:

  • Joint, where both parents share the right and responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.


  • Sole, where only 1 parent has the right and responsibility to make the important decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children.

Parents with legal custody make decisions or choices about their children’s:

  • School or child care
  • Religious activities or institutions
  • Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
  • Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professional (except in emergency situations)
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
  • Travel
  • Residence (where the children will live)

Parents who share legal custody both have the right to make decisions about these aspects of their children’s lives, but they do not have to agree on every decision. Either parent can make a decision alone. But to avoid having problems and ending up back in court, both parents should communicate with each other and cooperate in making decisions together.

Physical custody can be:

  • Joint, which means that the children live with both parents.
  • Sole or primary, which means the children live with 1 parent most of the time and usually visit the other parent.

Joint physical custody does not mean that the children must spend exactly half the time with each parent. Usually the children spend a little more time with 1 parent than the other because it is too hard to split the time exactly in half. When 1 parent has the children more than half of the time, then that parent is sometimes called the “primary custodial parent.”

Sometimes, a judge gives parents joint legal custody, but not joint physical custody. This means that both parents share the responsibility for making important decisions in the children’s lives, but the children live with 1 parent most of the time. The parent who does not have physical custody usually has visitation with the children.

 Examples of types of visitations:

  1. Visitation according to a schedule
  2. Reasonable visitation
  3. Supervised visitation
  4. No visitation

We will help you get the appropriate type of order your child needs in order to succeed.