One of the biggest issues couples who are divorced or facing divorce must contend with is determining the amount of child support that one of them will pay. In the state of California, this figure is based on the amount of time each parent will be with the children, how many children the parents have, how much each parent earns, and whether they are eligible for certain tax deductions.
Child support will be calculated in various scenarios, including some domestic partnership situations, paternity cases, separations, and divorces or dissolutions. The courts use a very specific calculation throughout the state, so that child support requirements are uniform and provide a minimum level of support across the board.
The minimum amount that a parent will need to pay is determined by a standard calculation. Although certain circumstances allow for a lesser amount, the parent must meet stringent requirements to pay less.
The Statewide Child Support Guideline
Understanding the calculation the courts use to determine child support in California begins with the following set of principles which are set forth in the statute.
- The purpose of child support orders is to ensure that children receive fair, sufficient support in a timely manner. It must also reflect the considerable expense of raising children and high cost of living in this state compared to others.
- The guideline is understood to be accurate in all cases. Child support orders for less than the amount mandated in the formula arise only in rare, special circumstances.
- Each parent is held mutually responsible for providing for their children.
- The ultimate obligation of each parent is to provide adequate support for their children, based on their station in life and unique set of circumstances.
How Do the Courts Use This Guideline?
The California guideline establishes a very specific formula for placing a dollar amount on child support. The details that are included in this calculation include the following.
- Childcare expenses that either parent must pay
- Union dues, pensions, health insurance, and any other mandatory payroll deductions
- Tax deductions, such as mortgage interest, that either parent is able to claim
- The percentage of time that each parent is with the child
- The gross income of each parent
In short, these figures are put into a calculator that uses the following formula to generate the child support figure: CS=K(HN-(H%)(TN)). The variables in the equation can be explained as such:
- TN = both parents’ combined total net disposable income per month
- H% = the higher earner’s approximate percentage of time having custody of the children
- HN = high net, or the higher wage earner’s net disposable income per month
- K = both parents’ combined total income that is to be dedicated to child support
- CS = the child support figure that the equation determines (This is for one child; the law dictates a multiplier that is used when there is more than one child.)
If this seems complicated, the easiest way to look at the calculation is less time the higher wage earner spends with the child, and more income difference between the two parents equates to a higher child support figure the higher-earning parent must pay.
Can You Pay a Lesser Amount Than the Guideline Figure?
When the guideline calculation was developed, the California legislature considered the fact that this figure may not be reasonable or fair in some circumstances. Although the guideline amount is generally considered to be correct, there are some reasons a judge may determine that a different amount is appropriate.
The factors that may affect the guideline figure are included in Family Code Section 4057(b) and include the following.
- A child may have special needs that require a higher amount of child support than the equation determines.
- Each parent may spend essentially the same amount of time with the children, and one of the parents may have a significantly higher or lower percentage of housing income.
- One of the parents may not be contributing to the children’s needs in a way that correlates to their custodial time.
- The higher-earning parent may have such an exceedingly high income that the guideline figure would be much more than necessary to provide adequate support for the children.
It is also important to note that a parent may be ordered to help with specific costs to benefit the children, outside of the basic guideline figure.
What Circumstances Would Require a Parent to Help with Additional Costs?
There are two kinds of add-ons a parent may be required to contribute to according to the family code, including:
- Discretionary add-ons. These additional child support costs may include travel expenses incurred by the custodial parent to facilitate visitation and expenses related to a child’s special needs or educational costs.
- Mandatory add-ons. The judge must order child support add-ons for situations such as reasonable uninsured health care expenses and costs related to reasonable necessary training or education for the child’s employment skills.
When these additional child support costs are ordered by the judge, each parent is expected to share them equally. In some circumstances, however, a parent may request an unequal allocation of such costs. If the judge deems that such an arrangement is warranted, they are legally authorized to do so.
In these scenarios, the courts must determine the standard guideline figure first and then adjust the child support payment amount based on each parent’s net disposable income. When a judge determines the net disposable income of the parent who is paying child support, they must first deduct the regular child support payment from that figure, but the payment amount is not added to the income of the other parent.
Another detail of importance is the influence spousal support has on these calculations. If one parent is paying alimony to the other, the courts must subtract that amount from the paying parent’s income and add it to the receiving parent’s gross income when making a determination on the basic guideline figure.
Trust a Family Law Attorney to Help You Out
The court system can present obstacles that are difficult to understand and navigate on your own in any situation. When it comes to your life after divorce and the care of your children, it is vital to present your strongest case and ensure the best outcome for your family. Stephanie J. Squires is an attorney with extensive knowledge and experience in this field. Her dedication to client interests has helped her build a reputation you can trust. Visit her website today to see what she can do for you.