Child support is an ongoing monetary payment to a custodial parent to cover a child’s living and medical expenses. Interestingly, U.S. federal law requires that all states which receive certain federal funds set up a guideline formula for child support. Accordingly, California Family Code section 4050 outlines the statewide California Child Support Guideline.

California’s Child Support Guideline sets a minimum level of support for a child while providing uniformity in calculating child support. Thus, state law requires judges to follow the California Child Support Guideline when ordering child support payment unless the ex-spouses mutually agree to a different amount.

Fundamentals of California’s Child Support Guideline

Courts must consider the following principles when setting guideline child support in California:

  • Parents must support their minor children according to their respective situation and station in life. Child support guidelines are based on each parent’s net disposable monthly income and the amount of time they care for the child.
  • Both parents are mutually responsible to adequately support their child.
  • An order for support can be set below statewide guidelines in rare situations.
  • The child’s best interest is the judge’s top priority. Therefore, the court will consider the child’s existing standard of living to ensure the child support order meets the child’s needs.
  • Children should share in the same standard of living as both parents.
  • Parents must efficiently settle conflicts about child support.
  • The child support order must make sure a child receives fair, timely, and adequate support.

Additionally, the court will consider the following factors when calculating support:

  • Timeshare between parents
  • Parents’ income from all sources
  • Taxes
  • Insurance costs
  • Child care and child’s special needs
  • Deductions and credits

Factors Not Affecting California Child Support Guideline

If one or both parties have remarried, the court typically does not consider the new spouse’s income when calculating California guideline child support. Additionally, personal expenses such as rent, outstanding debts, and costs of living have little bearing on the calculation of child support.

Furthermore, child support usually lasts until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, depending on which occurs last. Incidentally, if a child has special needs, the court may order child support to be paid beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday.

Not Following California’s Child Support Guideline

Spouses may agree to accept a child support amount lower than the established guideline. However, the court always has the authority to order that guideline support be paid. Regardless, the court must ensure that the reduced support adequately meets the child’s needs and is in the child’s best interest.

How is California’s 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. However, most California courthouses 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 those available through the California Department of Child Support Services website simply provide a very general estimation of child support based on limited information.

For a true calculation of California’s Child Support Guideline, contact A People’s Choice for a thorough report based on your particular situation. As an illustration, we can run several scenarios so you can see exactly how your parenting timeshare directly impacts support orders. These reports are great tools for establishing a mutually agreeable child support order outside of court intervention.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about guideline support in California. We can help you file a petition for child support or enforce an existing order. Finally, to learn more about child support in California, you can find more information here.

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