Child Support

Secure your children's future and well-being by ensuring they are supported financially

Typically the custodial parent receives child support from the other parent, but either parent can be required by the court to pay child support.

In California, both parents are responsible for the financial and emotional support of their children. If parents are not married at the time a child is conceived or born, the court will need to establish parentage to order child support. How much child support is ordered depends upon each parent’s income and the amount of time the child spends living with them.

How Does the Court Calculate Child Support?

California courts use a complex algebraic formula to determine the child support owed. If the parents cannot come to a fair arrangement on their own or with the help of attorneys, the court will use this formula to determine the specific amount of money that one parent must pay the other to help pay for the living expenses of their child or children. Occasionally the court may deviate, but usually it must follow the amount dictated by the guideline or the calculations from a “DissoMaster program,” used by family law professionals.

The overall child support calculation includes the parents’ gross incomes, the percentage of time each parent spends with the children and how much responsibility each parent has for the children, and the available income tax deductions, mandatory payroll deductions (e.g. for health insurance), and child care costs, such as for daycare, of each parent. The purpose behind the formula is to achieve both a minimum level of child support for each child and uniformity in all child support payments. Parents are mutually responsible for support and the parent’s first obligation is to their children.

Once the court orders child support, the non-custodial parent must provide monthly financial support for the children to the other parent. If that parent does not make the payments in a timely fashion, an attorney or an agency can help make sure that these orders are enforced. Among other things, wages can be garnished, licenses can be suspended, and benefits such as unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits can be intercepted.

Why Would a Court Deviate From the Guidelines in Calculating Child Support?

Courts occasionally deviate from the above guidelines for good cause when establishing child support. Mechanical application of the guidelines is not always fair and reasonable. Accordingly, there are factors that can be applied by a judge to award higher or lower child support to a particular parent. For example, a judge can change the child support payment where the parent being asked to pay has such a high income that the amount determined by formula vastly exceeds the children’s needs. Similarly, a judge may consider a different calculation where the parents have joint physical custody, but one parent has significantly different rental or mortgage payments due. Children with special needs can also require higher payments than might otherwise be owed under a formula.

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