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Calculating Child Support in California

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How Is Child Support Calculated in California?

The California Guideline Child Support Calculator is used to determine the amount of child support payments that should be paid. The Court Commissioner or Family Law Judge has the final authority to determine the amount of child support order.

The calculator or formula that is used only provides an estimate and is not a guarantee of the amount of child support that you will be ordered to pay. California courts use an algebraic equation to calculate the amount due for child support.

What Is the Child Support Guidelines In California?

In California, child support is based on a complex formula that takes into consideration the parent's income, how much each parent spends with the child, and any tax deductions that are available to each parent. The Statewide Child Support Guideline can be found under the California Family Code 4050. 

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

There are two main purposes for the child support guidelines. First the guidelines are designed to provide a minimum of child support that must be paid. Second, to provide a set standard in the calculation of the child support. State law requires the judge to follow these guidelines in order to achieve these purposes and goals. The underlying purpose of why the guidelines are set are the following:

  • A parent first responsibility and obligation is to support his minor children
  • Both parents must be mutually responsible in supporting their children even if they have no custody
  • The child support orders are designed to ensure that each child receives a fair and timely financial support when they are raised

What Is the Child Support Formula In California?

The formula for calculating child support in California is:

CS = K[HN-(H%)(TN)]

CS = Total child support owed
K = A factor of both parents’ income allocated for child support. This varies based on the number of children involved.
HN = The highest earner’s net disposable income
H% = The highest earner’s approximate percentage of time in which he or she has physical custody of the child
TN = Both parties’ combined net disposable income

An online calculator version of this formula can be found at the California Department of Child Support Services.

However, this formula is not absolute. The court will consider other special circumstances in your life and your child’s life.

California courts will assume that the number reached by applying this formula is the correct one. However, they have some discretion to increase or lower the amount of child support paid if the circumstances warrant it.

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

The parties may also come to an agreement amongst themselves concerning child support, if the court determines that the amount is sufficient to provide for the child. Even if the parents agree on a certain amount that should be paid for the child support payments, the judge still has to approve the payments since all child support payments are court mandated orders.

California Family Code 4057 contains a list of factors that can justify a judge's decision to award child support that is higher or lower than generated by the guideline formula. Among these factors include:

  • The parent ordered to pay the child support payments has a high income and amount determined under the formula exceeds the needs of the child
  • A parent is not contributing to the needs of the child at the level with the parent's custodial time
  • Both parents have equal time with child and generated amount is unfair to one parent
  • The children has special needs and could require a higher amount than what the formula calculated

What Is the Income Deductions for Child Support?

Some deductions may be made, such as union dues, state and federal income tax, and health insurance premiums. Also, child support paid to another party may be deducted.

Consulting an Attorney

A qualified California family lawyer may assist you in calculating the appropriate child support amount you seek. They will know what deductions you are qualified to make and what special circumstances that will get more child support. Lastly, a lawyer advocate on your behalf.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 10-16-2017 11:12 PM PDT

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