The court often orders child support following marital, paternity, or domestic partnership dissolution. More specifically, California law mandates that both parents support their child according to each individual’s current life circumstances.  Further, the court calculates child support using a complicated formula. This formula takes into consideration each parent’s income, the amount of time each parent spends with their child, and tax deductions applicable to each parent.

Calculating Child Support With the California Guideline Formula

In California, the court utilizes this complicated formula to calculate child support: CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN))Here is a breakdown of this formula:

CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN))

  • CS stands for the child support amount.
  • K represents the combined total of both parent’s income.
  • HN stands for the monthly disposable income of the parent who earns more money.
  • H stands for the amount of time the high earner parent spends with the child compared to the other parent.
  • TN represents the combined total net monthly disposable income of both parents.

In order to utilize this formula, the court must have the following information:

  • Each parent’s gross income;
  • The percentage of time each parent spends with their child;
  • Income tax deductions each parent can claim;
  • Mandatory payroll deductions such as health care costs, pensions, and union dues; and
  • Childcare costs incurred by the parents

How Life Circumstances Affect California Child Support Guidelines


When calculating child support under California guidelines, the court uses both parents’ “net disposable income”. This is the parent’s net income after paying state and federal taxes, social security, health care, and mandatory union dues.  Additionally, the court may include any income a parent receives as a bonus or commission. However, the court does not consider CalWORKs, general assistance, nor supplemental security income when determining a child support obligation.

Living Expenses

Most living expenses have no effect on child support. Further, deductions for wage attachments are typically not considered when calculating net income. For example, assume a spouse’s net income is $3,300 after income tax, social security, unemployment insurance benefits, and mandatory union dues. However, this spouse also has $250 deducted from his earnings to pay a past due payday loan. This additional deduction will not reduce his income for child support calculation purposes. Furthermore, his other living expenses such as rent, food, clothing, and insurance will also have no bearing on the amount of support ordered. That said, if a parent is paying child or spousal support for another relationship, the court will take that into consideration.


Unfortunately, overtime and other supplemental or non-wage income is taken into consideration when calculating child support. However, the spouse must have a history of working overtime for use in projecting future income for purposes of guideline support. If the payor parent typically receives overtime pay, they will pay a higher amount in monthly child support.

Still have questions about how your life circumstances will affect child support payments? Use this free calculator to determine a rough estimate of how much child support you may pay or receive.

More On Child Support in California

In contested separation proceedings, judges must order the guideline level of child support unless they have good reason to order a different amount. However, parties can agree to a child support order that is higher or lower than California guideline support. On the other hand, they can also mutually agree that neither party will pay. That said, any child support orders can be modified; otherwise, payment should continue until a child reaches 18 years of age.

A People’s Choice Can Help

A People’s Choice has helped thousands of parents obtain new or modified orders for child support. Plus, when parents agree, we can help prepare a stipulation. This allows parties to submit orders without ever appearing at a hearing!

If you want to find out how your life situation affects California guideline support, contact us today. We can run a guideline support report for you based upon several different scenarios. Call us today at 800-747-2780 or reach out through our website.

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