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California Child Support Calculations

Last updated 11/18/2019

One of the more common questions raised by parents going through a divorce is how child support is determined by courts. For starters, child support is paid by the non-custodial parent. The idea behind this is that the parent who has custody of the child is already supporting the child financially by providing food, shelter, and other needs of the child. As a result, the non-custodial parent is the one who needs to provide a contribution to this support. In a situation where a third party has custody of the child, it is possible that both parents may be ordered to pay child support to that third party.

The following information will guide you through the process of making California child support calculations.

Primary Considerations for Support Determinations

Determining the appropriate level of child support owed by the child's other parent is important in order to maintain the child's standard of living, health, education and general welfare. This is a process performed by the courts where certain factors and guidelines are evaluated on a case by case basis. What is right for one child may not be for another.

Having all the necessary information ready will help the court determine an amount of child support that will help ensure the child receives everything that he or she needs.

California Guidelines for Calculating Child Support

As suggested, California courts have certain guidelines set which help in calculating the amount of child support to order in a given case. The California Department of Child Support Services has a child support guideline calculator which can help estimate the amount that a parent may be required to pay or that they may be entitled to receive in child support from the non-custodial parent. Under California law, a mother and father of a child have equal duties to support their child until the child either: (1) turns 18 and is a full-time high school student; (2) completes the 12th grade; or (3) turns 19, whichever occurs first. Assembly Bill No. 3248, Chapter 504 amends the above requirement by excusing a student who is not full time if the child has a medical condition documented by a physician that prevents full-time attendance.

When determining the amount of support to be ordered, the court will generally look at the following factors:

  1. How much money the parents earn or can earn;
  2. How much other income the parent receives;
  3. How many children these parents have together;
  4. How much time each parent spends with the child/children;
  5. The actual tax-filing status of each parent;
  6. Support of children from other relationships;
  7. Health insurance expenses;
  8. Mandatory union dues;
  9. Mandatory retirement contributions;
  10. The cost of sharing day-care and uninsured health-care costs.

Only in very limited situations can the judge order an amount other than that calculated by the guidelines above. See Child Support Calculation Questionnaire and Child Support Calculators: Are They Accurate? to learn more.

Consulting with a local family law attorney may be helpful for anyone with specific questions about California child support calculations.

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