Generally, child support is the amount awarded to the child after the parents separate or divorce to ensure the financial and physical well-being of the child. In California, child support is the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay every month for the expenses of raising the child or children. Usually, paying child support duty continues until the child reaches 18 years of age, graduates high school or turns 19 years of age, marries, dies, or legal emancipation. 

In California, child support is calculated by evaluating both the parent’s income, time spent with each parent and any tax deductions available to either parent. This calculation is applied when the support of a minor child is to be determined, including in divorces, separations or paternity cases and domestic partnership cases. Specifically, the Statewide Child Support Guidelines can be found at California Family Code, 4050 to 4076. 

What Are the Child Support Guidelines In California?

In general the California statute outlines several guidelines regarding child support that the court are to follow and how it should be determined these include: 

  • Parents’ priority is to support their minor children according to each parent’s circumstances and station in life; 
  • Both parents share the responsible for supporting their children; 
  • Only under special or extringent circumstances can child support orders fall below the child support and; 
  • Child support orders should mandate that children receive fair, timely, and sufficient support, which reflects the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.

What Is the Purpose of the Child Support Guidelines In California?

The purpose of the California child support guidelines is to provide food, clothing, medical care and the ability to pursue education. It is to ensure the financial and physical well-being of the child. 

Furthermore, it is to provide for a minimum level of child support to a child and to provide uniformity in the calculation of child support. In order to achieve these purposes, the California state law mandates that the judges follow the guidelines, with deviations allowed only in limited and special situations.

What Is the Child Support Formula In California?

California has developed a child support formula to better guide judges to justly determine an amount for the child. The following are several factors that need to be considered before making the determination: 

  • Evaluate the parent’s gross income; 
  • Consider the percentage of time each child spends with each parent and; 
  • If there are any available income tax deductions that the parents can claim, such as mortgage interest, mandatory payroll deductions, such as health insurance, pensions, and union dues, and any outstanding child care costs incurred by either parent.

After examining these factors and once the right information is obtained, it can be used to plug into the calculator to generate the monthly payment amount for the child support for that specific household. Below is the description of the child support formula: 

CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN)).

The letters represent the different information needed to accurately yield a payment for child support. The CS stands for child support or child support amount. Meaning that, this is what the formula will calculate once  you have all the necessary information. However, this amount will only be for one child. If there are more children from the same couple, they must multiply the CS amount by a figure set out in the law, which will depend on the number of children.

K is the total combination of both parents’ income that is allocated for child support. Basically, it is the amount of the parents’ combined income that must be used for child support. This depends on how much the parents earn individually and on how much time the higher-earning parent spends with the child. 

HN means high net, it is the net monthly disposable income of the parent who earns more.

The H% in the formula is the approximate percentage of time that the high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent. In situations in which parents have different time-sharing arrangements for different children, H% stands for the average of the approximate percentages of time the high earner parent spends with each child.

Lastly, TN is the total net monthly disposable income of both parents combined. Utilizing the formula is useful and doing the research to determine the fair amount of child support. The formula comes in handy for the judges, lawyers, and social workers assisting parents through this process. For further information on calculating the California’s child support click on the following link: https://childsupport.ca.gov/guideline-calculator/ 

Can Parents Agree to a Different Amount for Child Support Payments?

The California Family Code Section 4057(a) notes that the guideline amount of child support, as configured by the formula, is “presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be ordered.” This requires that the judge must order the guideline level of child support, unless there is a valid reason for a different amount of child support. 

In creating the child support guideline, the California legislature realized that there may be situations which arise that may make the application of the guideline unfair or unreasonable. Family Code Section 4057(b) contains a list of factors that can justify a judge’s decision to award child support that is different than the amount generated by the guideline formula. These factors include:

  • The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children.
  • A parent is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that parent’s custodial time.
  • Both parents have substantially equal time with the children and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income used for housing than the other parent.
  • The children have special medical or other needs that could require child support greater than the formula amount.

What Are Income Deductions for Child Support?

Typically, when a parent receives a regular paycheck, the calculation of that parent’s gross income is reflected in that parent’s paycheck stub. However, there are other forms of income that usually are included in calculation of child support. The precise definition of “income” has been established by the Family Code and California Appellate Court decisions and be further examined by the help of a family law attorney

The following are some income deductions for child support which means they are not to be included as income in the calculation of child support:

  • Payments that are received from a public assistance program; 
  • Support that is received for children from another relationship; 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits; 
  • Student loans; 
  • Appreciation of the parent’s residence; 
  • One-time gifts and inheritances and; 
  • Life insurance proceeds. 

Consulting an Attorney 

If you have recently been ordered to pay child support in the state of California, it may be useful to reach out to a California child support lawyer in your local county to assist with the process of how to make or reach a fair monthly payment for the upbringing of your child. 

The family law courts can provide guidance with preparing forms, explaining court procedures, changing the child support orders, calculating the child support guidelines by using your financial information and help you understand how the court makes child support decisions. Child support is a legal responsibility of the parents for their minor children and therefore they must make it a priority to resolve any issues that arise from it.