Child support is a far ranging matter that almost always needs to be addressed in divorce, legal separation, domestic partnerships, or when unmarried people have children together. The obligation to pay court-ordered child support is viewed as more important than your right to maintain a standard of living for yourself, and courts don’t place your need to pay personal expenses above your responsibility to first pay child support. For this reason we say that child support in California is income driven.
Spousal support obligations may be limited or waived in advance of marriage in a premarital agreement or fixed or permanently abandoned in Marital Settlement Agreements without a court second-guessing you, this is not true with child support. While it is permissible that parents may agree to a zero child support order, the right to be supported belongs to the child - who cannot contract or be a party to such an agreement. Government policy encourages parents, and not the State, to support minor children. However, child support agreements are nonetheless enforceable so long as they are reasonable and appropriate to the needs of children and to the parents’ financial circumstances. Yet, those agreements can always later be modified.
The amount of support you receive or are required to pay will directly affect your quality of life, and that of dependent children. It is important to intelligently and sensitively address these issues at the outset, and to structure support agreements as constructively as possible, and when necessary to present your arguments and evidence to the Court in the most persuasive light.
If you receive an unfavorable child support award, its consequences will echo into the future. The law on the subject is complex and in many situations it may not be advisable to be unrepresented in applications involving support. Without a competent attorney to guide and manage your case, you may find your support entitlements prejudiced. When a family court judge rules on your matter, it becomes very difficult to “un-ring the bell” - at least not until some time passes so that you can argue your circumstances have changed in a material way since the date of the last order.