Calculating Child Support

California has a statewide formula (called a “guideline”) for figuring out how much child support should be paid.

If parents cannot agree on child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on the guideline calculation.

The guideline calculation depends on:

  • How much money the parents earn or can earn;
  • How much other income each parent receives;
  • How many children these parents have together;
  • How much time each parent spends with their children (time-share);
  • The actual tax filing status of each parent;
  • Support of children from other relationships;
  • Health insurance expenses;
  • Mandatory union dues;
  • Mandatory retirement contributions;
  • The cost of sharing daycare and uninsured health-care costs; and
  • Other factors.

The child support order may also require the parents to share the costs for:

  • Child care to allow the parent to work or to get training or schooling for work skills;
  • Children’s reasonable health-care expenses;
  • Traveling for visitation from 1 parent to another;
  • Children’s educational needs; and
  • Other special needs.

The guideline amount is presumed to be correct.  The judge can only order something other than the guideline amount in very limited situations. (Read the California Family Code sections 4052 through 4057External link icon for more detail on calculating child support and what the judge can do.)

To estimate how much child support the judge may order in your case, go to California Guideline Child Support CalculatorExternal link icon. To understand how to fill in the information in the Child Support Calculator, download the User GuideExternal link iconPDF file type icon.

Figuring out “income” to calculate child support
The court bases child support on a parent’s “net disposable income.” This means the parent’s income after state and federal taxes and other required deductions. The court may order support based in part on bonuses, commissions, overtime, and other supplemental or non-wage income if the court determines that this income occurs regularly.

Certain income is NOT counted when determining a child support obligation. For example, the court cannot consider income from:

  • CalWORKs,
  • General Assistance/General Relief, or
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income).

Figuring out “time-share” to calculate child support
The court will calculate “time-share” (how much time each parent spends with the children) by comparing the amount of time that each parent has primary physical responsibility for the child. In general, this means that the court will count the numbers of hours or other portions of the day a parent spends with his or her child.

Usually, child support payments will decrease as time-share increases.

from California Courts

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