In a perfect world, both parents of every child would have the capacity to look after their children's needs and see to their proper development. Unfortunately, we live in a society where overseas military service, incarceration, substance abuse, mental illness and other factors may deprive children of having meaningful and beneficial relationships with their parents.
Under California law, both parents are legally responsible for providing their children with adequate support for their day-to-day needs. When couples divorce, family courts generally use California's child support guidelines as a way to determine just how much support each parent should pay. Generally, courts will examine the income of both parents as well as which parent provides the principal source of care and housing for the children involved. That parent is often referred to as the custodial parent.