California Child Support Laws: Updates in 2024

Closeup of parent and daughter holding hands
Closeup of parent and daughter holding hands

California’s child support laws are scheduled to undergo major changes in 2024 to create a fairer, more inclusive system. These changes are important for both custodial and non-custodial parents because they will impact child support arrangements.

Let’s take a more detailed look at a couple of the more impactful updates:

AB 1755 Child Support Guidelines

This bill, AB 1755, makes significant changes to the child support system in California, with several key provisions:

Repeal of Expedited Support Order Provisions: The bill repeals existing provisions that require a court to make an expedited support order under certain conditions, effective January 1, 2024.

Revision of Child Support Guidelines: Starting September 1, 2024, the bill revises the statewide uniform guideline for determining child support. This includes changes to the amount establishing a rebuttable presumption for low-income adjustment and expands protocols for issuing orders to pay uninsured health care and specified childcare costs.

Local Child Support Agency Operations: Effective January 1, 2026, the bill modifies requirements for local child support agencies. This includes new methods to calculate income and consideration of earning capacity when actual income is insufficient. Additionally, it introduces provisions for a local child support agency to conduct reviews in cases where support orders are based on earning capacity.

Judicial Procedures and Forms: The bill mandates the Judicial Council to develop simplified forms for support actions and sets guidelines for determining income for child support. These changes become operative starting September 1, 2024, and January 1, 2026.

State Reimbursement for Mandated Costs: It provides that if the state mandates certain costs through this bill, local agencies and school districts will be reimbursed for these costs.

Inoperative and Repeal Dates: Various sections of the bill are set to become inoperative or are repealed on specific future dates, reflecting the transitional nature of the changes.

Other Procedural Changes: The bill includes additional changes to procedures related to child support enforcement, such as the handling of default judgments and the establishment of temporary support orders.

Overall, AB 1755 aims to update and refine child support guidelines and procedures, focusing on fairness in the determination of child support obligations, particularly for low-income individuals, and improving the efficiency of local child support agencies.

California State Budget Trailer Bill

The next bill to review is one that will benefit those parents who receive funds from the state to help them meet daily obligations, when the other parent (the payor) fails to pay their support obligation.

In the past, the state has kept any monies they have received from going after the payor parent who failed to pay their obligation, to reimburse the state for money the state sent to the payee parent, while he or she wasn’t receiving support. This bill below will change that scenario.

The new child support-related reforms included in the 2023-2024 Budget Trailer Bill are:

Full Child Support Pass-Through for Former CalWorks Recipients: Starting from April 2024, families that formerly received CalWorks benefits will receive full pass-through of child support payments. This means that child support payments that were previously used to reimburse the state for assistance services will now be given directly to the payee parents.

Distribution of Payments Toward Government-Owed Debt: Starting in the summer of 2024, any payments received that are meant for government-owed debt will be passed through to parents who previously received cash assistance, rather than being used to reimburse the state general fund.

Additional Reforms:

Relief for incarcerated parents regarding child support, potentially reducing their obligations while they are unable to earn an income.

Protection for parents from having their driver’s licenses suspended due to child support debt, which can help them maintain employment and ability to provide support.

Limitations on the Department of Social Services in referring foster care families to the Department of Child Support Services for recoupment, which could ease financial pressures on these families.

California Child Support 2024 Budget Provisions: Effects & Benefits

The main effect of these reforms is that they provide more direct financial support to families who need it by ensuring that child support payments go directly to the families rather than to the state.

These changes can help alleviate poverty and financial stress for families who are no longer receiving CalWorks benefits by increasing their disposable income.

By preventing driver’s license suspensions, the bill helps ensure that parents can continue to work and provide support for their children.

For incarcerated parents, the relief could prevent the accumulation of significant debt due to non-payment during incarceration, which can be a barrier to reintegration post-release.

For foster care families, limiting referrals for recoupment can remove a potential financial burden and make the system more supportive of their needs.

Overall, these reforms are designed to support the financial stability and well-being of parents and families who are interacting with the child support system, with a focus on ensuring that support payments are used to benefit the children directly.

Here at West Coast Family Mediation Center, we are here to help guide families through the complex family legal system and ensure you are aware of all the up-to-date information when taking these issues head on. While there are certainly parents who are in need of child support services who are not married or already divorced, every case we have that involves minor children also includes a conversation and agreement around child support.

A seemingly little-known fact about child support: it is a non-waivable right. What that means is that mom or dad cannot WAIVE the right to receive child support if they need it. Why is that? Because it is not their right to waive. The right to have child support resides with the child – not the parent. And the child, as a minor, cannot waive their right to support, either.

In mediation, if the lower-earning parent truly does not need the child support, they can temporarily not take it, so long as they can still provide for their children. We often see this if the parents earn very similar income, or if the lower earner has very little time with the minor child(ren). Or, if there are significant assets that the custodial parent is living on. However, as long as there is a need, the court will not let a parent waive child support.

Our team is well versed in California family law, including divorce and child custody mediation. Reach out to West Coast Family Mediation Center for a confidential virtual consult.

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