Is there such thing as “parent” support in California?

You probably didn’t need to come to this web site to know that California has laws compelling parents to financially support their children. The reasons for this are obvious. When parents make the decision to procreate, they are financially responsible for that decision. I think we can all agree that the taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill to support a child when one or both of that child’s parents can do so themselves. It should be no surprise then, that Family Code section 4053 holds that “a parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children acceding to the parent’s circumstances and station in life” and that the “financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.”

Did you know, however, that there is such thing as “parent support” in California too?

Most attorneys aren’t even aware of this, but Family Code section 4400 holds that, subject to certain exceptions, “an adult child shall, to the extent of his or her ability, support a parent who is in need and unable to maintain himself or herself by work.” Parent support in California even goes a step further than child support in that “the promise of an adult child to pay for necessaries previously furnished to a parent…is binding.” In another words, if an adult child promises to pay a parent’s rent for a certain portion of time, that promise can be enforced in family court!

Just like child support, any county can bring an action on behalf of a parent for parent support. Just as in child support, the state has an interest in making sure such support is paid from private resources if possible.

The discretion the Court has regarding parent support is much broader than in child support. In California, we have Guideline calculations that are mandated by federal law for child support. Absent extenuating circumstances, the Court is required to follow the Guideline calculation.

This is not so in parent support. In parent support, the Court is required to consider, of each party, their earning capacity and needs, obligations and assets, age and health, standard of living, and other factors the court deems just and equitable. In this way, the determination of parent support is actually more similar to spousal support than child support. In fact, although there are more total factors to consider in spousal support, the five factors in parent support are all used in spousal support determinations.Ultimately, should you encounter this situation, it is important that you have competent and experienced legal counsel at your side.

Please contact us if you have more questions about parent support in California. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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