What Is the Child Support Exception for High-Income Earners?

In our last blog post, we discussed how child support is calculated in the state of California. California’s statewide uniform guideline stipulates the amount of child support to be paid, based on each parent’s net disposable monthly income and the amount of time the child will be cared for by each parent.

There are some exceptions to the statewide uniform guideline, however. One exception covers situations where the parent paying child support has an extraordinarily high income. The paying parent’s divorce attorney may successfully argue that the amount of child support calculated under the statewide uniform guideline would exceed the actual needs of the children. Subsequently, the court may decide to lower the child support payment.

How much support does a child actually need?

Here is where this exception to the guideline can get tricky. According to California law, every child has the right to share in the standard of living of both parents, and child support paid to the custodial household improves the lives of the children. What that means is, if Erica lives 80% of the time with Mom and 20% with Dad, and Dad makes significantly more money than Mom, the court may determine that Erica’s standard of living when she is with Mom should not be significantly less than her standard of living when she is with Dad. Dad’s child support would help raise hers and Mom’s standard of living.

If Dad makes so much money, however, that the statewide uniform guideline support calculation would do far more than support Erica’s actual needs, his attorney has a case!

What is considered extraordinarily high income?

The court has the discretion to decide if a parent’s income is extraordinarily high, and the determination can vary by geography. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, a high-income mother will need to make much more than, say, a mother living in Bakersfield to be considered extraordinarily high by the courts.

Both parents need to agree

If a high earner parent desires to pay support below the California guideline formula, the court won’t approve, unless all of the following are true:

• Both parents are fully informed of their rights concerning child support.
• Both parents are agreeing to the exception without coercion or duress.
• The agreement is in the best interests of the children involved.
• The needs of the children will be adequately met.

Learn More

If you are a high-income earner who is in the process of getting a divorce and would like a realistic assessment 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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