How is Child Support Calculated?

Child Support Photo for Blog Attorney Michael Fischer

 Mike’s Answer:

A divorce is complicated enough on its own, but when children are thrown into the mix, the emotional and financial elements are heightened even more. If you’re going through a divorce, both parties might be wondering how much their child support payments are going to be. In California, child support payments are determined by complex guidelines that take into account both parents’ incomes, tax deductions, and how much time each parent spends with the children. The final amount is calculated using a very complex algebraic formula.

Calculations & Guidelines

The complex child support guidelines are used to do two main things: to provide a minimum level of support for the children, and to create standardized guidelines for calculating child support in other cases. For example, Family Code Section 4053 sets forth the statewide uniform guidelines, which include some of the following principles:

  • A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
  • Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
  • The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the child.
  • Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
  • Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
  • Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.

Essentially, the wellbeing of the children is the top priority when determining the amount of child support payments.

Deviations and Exceptions

In the event that the calculated amount should be lower or higher than stated, California law has allowed for deviations and exceptions from the guidelines. Such exceptions include prior agreed amounts (as long as it is appropriate), if the obligator’s income is very high and the support amount would exceed the needs of the children, or if the obligator has a financial hardship, then the court can lower the overall support amount. To get an idea of how much your child support payment will be, visit California’s Department of Child Support Servicers, which provides a handy child support calculator.

Posted in: Child Support, Divorce, Family Law