Child support is an ongoing monetary payment made to the custodial parent to cover a child’s living and medical expenses.  If you file a petition requesting child support in California, you will come across the term California Child Support Guideline. Interestingly, U.S. federal law requires all states that receive certain federal funds to set up a guideline formula for child support. Accordingly, California Family Code section 4050 outlines the statewide California Child Support Guideline. The guideline sets a minimum level of child support for a child while providing uniformity in calculating child support. State law requires judges to follow the California child support guideline when ordering a parent to pay child support to another parent, unless the parties mutually agree to a different amount.

Fundamentals of California Child Support Guideline

Courts are required to apply the following principles when setting guideline child support in California:

  1. Parents are required to support their minor children according to each parent’s situation and station in life. Child support guidelines are based on each parent’s net disposable monthly income and the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent.
  2. Both parents are mutually responsible to adequately support their child.
  3. An order for support can be set below statewide guidelines in rare situations.
  4. The child’s best interests is the judge’s top priority.
  5. Children should share in the same standard of living as both parents.
  6. Parents must efficiently settle conflicts about child support.
  7. The child support order must make sure a child receives fair, timely, and enough support.

When ordering child support, the court must do what is in the child’s best interest. In this regard, the court will consider the child’s existing standard of living to make sure the child support order meets the child’s needs.

How is California Child Support Guideline Calculated?

Child support is calculated based on the following formula found in California Family Code section 4055: CS=K

[HN-(H%)(TN)]. Section 4055 provides a breakdown of what the formula actually means. Most California courthouses, however, rely on software that runs the formula when setting support.

The child support calculation programs used by the courts are DissoMaster™ Program, CalSupport™ or Supportax®. These programs are usually available at the court’s self help center. 

Be aware that the online support calculators such as available through the California Department of Child Support Services web site simply provide a very general “estimation” of child support based on limited information.

For a true calculation of California guideline child support, contact A People’s Choice so that a thorough report can be generated based on your particular situation.  As an illustration, we can run several different scenarios based on variable time ratios with each parent so you can see exactly how your parenting time-share directly impacts California child support guideline calculations. These guideline child support reports are a great tool when trying to establish a mutually agreeable child support order outside of court intervention.

The court will consider the following factors when calculating support:

  1. Timeshare between parents
  2. Parents income from all sources
  3. Taxes
  4. Insurance costs
  5. Child care and the special needs of the child
  6. Deductions and credits

Other Factors Affecting Guideline Child Support in California

If one or both parties have remarried, the new spouse’s income is generally not considered when calculating California guideline child support. Additionally, personal expenses such as rent, outstanding indebtedness and costs of living have little bearing on the calculation of child support. Furthermore, child support usually last until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school (whichever occurs last). Incidentally, if a child has special needs, the court may order child support to be paid beyond the child’s 18th birthday.

Spouses may agree to accept a child support amount lower than the established guideline. If the parties agree to a non-guideline order, no change of circumstances needs to occur in order for a party to seek a modification of the order to California child support guideline standards. The court always has the authority to order that guideline support be paid. The court must make sure that the reduced amount of support adequately meets the child’s needs and that it is in the child’s best interest. .

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about guideline support in California. We can help you file a petition for child support or help you enforce an existing child support order. To read other articles on our web site about child support, click here.

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