How Is Child Support in California Calculated?
California has a statewide uniform guideline for paying child support. What that means is, wherever you live in California, the same child support considerations should apply to your situation. Your child support payment can either be decided in court, or through divorce mediation. If it is decided in court, the court must adhere to the principles stated in California Family Code section 4053:
- A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
- Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
- The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.
- Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
- The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state’s top priority.
- Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
What does that mean in practice?
In California, child support is based on each parent’s net disposable monthly income and the amount of time the child will be cared for by each parent. The court considers each parent’s income from all sources, whether or not it is reported or taxed under federal and state law. Income can be in the form of money, property or services, including: wages from a job, commissions, bonuses, self-employment earnings, unemployment benefits, disability and workers’ compensation benefits, interest, dividends, rental income, social security and pensions.
Certain items will be subtracted from each parent’s disposable income, including: taxes, mandatory retirement contributions and health insurance premiums.
To help parents understand their probable child support payments, the State of California has developed a child support calculator. If you use the calculator, your actual child support payments may differ, based on the assumptions you use, versus the court’s understanding of your situation. For example, you and the court may have a different opinion about whether your retirement contributions are mandatory.
Whenever parents go to court for a child support order, the court always makes the final decision about the actual amount of child support you will pay.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce and want a realist idea of what you can expect to pay for child support, please contact our office for a consultation. We can also assist, if you would like to explore divorce mediation rather than a court-mandated divorce settlement.
Attorney Christina Sherman is a Marin County CA family law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.
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