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How is California child support determined?

| Jun 15, 2021 | Child Support

Parents considering divorce often wonder whether the court will order child support. Whether you end up on the paying end or the receiving end of a support order, you should understand the factors that go into child support in California. The state expects both parents to contribute to a child’s financial support. The court calculates child support using statutory guidelines, made up of several factors. Those factors may include, but are not limited to:

  • Net disposable income for each parent
  • Time spent at each parent’s home by the child
  • How many children the parents have
  • Necessary expenses like healthcare and daycare

Although the statute includes a formula for calculating support, the court also has a certain amount of discretion to adjust the amount based on other factors. For example, if your child has travel costs when visiting a parent or has current educational costs that the judge decides should continue.

What is “net disposable income”?

The court looks at each parent’s after-tax income when calculating support. The court will review your tax returns and calculate your wages or salary. If you earn less than your potential salary, the court may apply an “imputed” income based on your ability to earn. The court then makes certain deductions from the income, such as income tax, health insurance, property taxes and child support already paid for a child from another relationship, just to name a few. The remaining amount is your net disposable income.

Changes over time

The law takes into account that things change over time for families. For that reason, you can always request a modification to a child support order when you have a change in circumstances. Common examples of changes include:

  • A change in income
  • A change in employment status
  • A change in the child’s needs regarding childcare, education or healthcare
  • One parent moves further away, changing visitation times and expenses

The current order remains in effect until the court issues the new order. The purpose of child support is to make sure that your child is cared for by both parents to the best of their ability. Any changes to the order should reflect that goal.

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