The Child’s Best Interest: How California Courts Calculate Child Support Payments

According to California Family Code, both parents have an equal responsibility to care for their child’s health, safety, and welfare. One of the primary ways to do so is by providing the child with adequate financial support and satisfying their material needs such as the need for sustenance, shelter and so on. Fulfilling this duty usually comes naturally when the parents of a child remain married to each other. However, when the parents are separated or divorced, they need to work out an agreement that will allow both of them to keep taking financial care of the child.

If separated or divorced parents cannot agree on the fair and reasonable amount each of them should contribute, one parent can petition the court to establish a child support order. The purpose of such an order is to oblige the other parent to pay a specific monthly amount of money to help cover the expenses related to raising the child. In this article, you will learn what factors a California court will take into consideration when calculating child support payments.

The Guideline Amount

When deciding on the amount of child support, courts in California must follow strict guidelines. These guidelines mention a number of factors that a court must take into consideration in order to establish a specific monthly amount of child support payments. Such factors include:

  • The number of children the separated or divorcing couple have together
  • Timesharing arrangements or how much time each parent spends with the children
  • A parent’s gross income or money earned from all sources including salary and wages, business ownership, and employment or self-employment benefits
  • Health insurance costs
  • Mandatory union dues
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • State and federal tax obligations
  • Certain other factors

The way in which the factors mentioned above are used to calculate child support payments is regulated by a complicated mathematical formula. Courts usually use a computer program that helps to determine the exact amount. A version of the program in the form of an online calculator can be found on the California Child Support Services website.

When Can a Court Change the Calculated Amount?

While California courts usually closely follow the guidelines and establish child support orders based on the guideline amount, certain exceptions can, at times, be made. Such circumstances may include a situation where one parent’s income is unusually high and the calculated guideline amount would greatly exceed the child’s needs. On the other hand, a court may also decide to increase the amount of child support payments when one parent spends very little time with the child, not contributing sufficiently to the child’s needs.

In addition to the child support payments calculated using the guidelines stipulated by California family law, the court can also add certain other expenses to the guideline amount. Such expenses are usually related to some special needs such as costs of uninsured health care, a parent’s travel expenses when related to child visitation as well as the child’s educational expenses.

Obtain Comprehensive Legal Assistance With Your Child Support Case

We realize that the rules of a child support case in California may still seem complicated to you. At a consultation with one of our experienced Carroll Law Office attorneys, we will gladly answer any questions you may have with regards to child support laws and arrangements. We will also analyze your individual child support situation and provide advice on the best legal solutions available in your circumstances. Do not hesitate to contact us by today calling at 707-536-1156.