How is child support determined in California?

Christopher R. Abernathy - Family Law - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Christopher R. Abernathy

Christopher R. Abernathy, APLC
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Phone: 909-484-7667
Fax: 855-272-2889

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In California, each child is entitled by law to financial support from both his or her parents. When two parents are not raising a child together, child support is usually necessary. If you are a parent considering a divorce, one of the questions that you may have is how your child support obligation will be calculated. The answer to this question depends on several factors. 

Under California law, there is a standard mathematical formula that is used to calculate child support guidelines. In general, the child support guideline that is derived from this formula is the presumed amount of child support to be ordered by the court. In other words, the court may not deviate from this amount, except in very limited circumstances. Additionally, divorcing couples cannot negotiate a lower support amount during divorce or waive child support obligations in a premarital or postmarital agreement. 

Factors considered in support calculation 

California uses a complex algebraic formula to calculate child support guidelines. Some of the items that the formula takes into consideration when determining the amount of a parent’s support obligation include: 

  • Each parent’s income
  • The available tax deductions each parent can claim
  • The number of children in the marriage
  • Any children from a prior marriage who require support
  • Mortgages, property taxes and other financial obligations of each parent
  • The amount of time that the child spends in each parent’s physical custody
  • Health insurance costs
  • Union dues of each parent
  • Mandatory retirement contributions of each parent
  • The incomes of new spouses, if either parent has remarried 

In addition to the amount of child support determined by the standard formula, the court may order each parent to contribute additional monies to cover expenses that are for the benefit of the children. For example, if a child is disabled or has special needs, the court may require each parent to contribute additional support to pay for the child’s medical treatment or special educational needs. 

How can an attorney help? 

Although California uses a standard formula to calculate child support obligations, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney to ensure a fair and accurate calculation. In addition to protecting your best interests throughout the divorce process, an attorney can be particularly useful in helping determine accurate incomes for self-employed persons, as well as those who underreport their incomes. Additionally, an attorney is invaluable in determining what tax deductions are allowable by law, which ultimately influences the child support guideline amount calculated by the formula.   

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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