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How Child Support in California is Calculated: Guidelines and Factors 

by Law Offices of David M. Lederman
Aug 15, 2023

Calculating child support in California is based on a formula which is relatively straightforward. However, it can be challenging to navigate the numerous reasons to depart from the guidelines, alter support agreements, and make modifications.

If you are seeking insight on child support in California, talk with an experienced Divorce lawyer to get your questions answered today.

Understanding the Basics of Child Support in California

One of the most pressing issues in splitting up with a spouse or partner is whether you will pay or receive child support. In either case, the big looming question is: how much? 

Many states have very specific and clear guidelines for calculating the numbers based exclusively on the income of both parents. However, California guidelines are much more intricate. The complex formula for Child Support takes into account the income of each parent as well as how much time each parent spends with the child. This is similar if parents are calculating custody for more than one child.

Parents may agree on child support. If there is a dispute, a judge decides and will apply the California guidelines and factors.

Use the Online Calculator to Estimate Child Support

The State of California offers an online calculator to provide people with a convenient way to estimate child support. However, it is important to realize that a judge may evaluate support differently after applying several guidelines and factors, which vary from case to case. 

The general guideline to keep in mind is that two factors are critical: income and time spent with the child or children. The greater the differences between incomes and the less time spent with the child tend to indicate that the parent will owe more in child support.

Applying California’s Child Support Guideline

The formula for calculating child support has several variables and factors. It is used when child support is calculated in a court case. This may occur during dissolutions of marriage, the term used in California for divorce. It is also applied in support cases such as between unmarried parents, dissolution of domestic partnerships, and modifications of existing support orders.

The Guideline Formula In California Child Support

Much like mathematics, this formula is easier to understand when you know the equation. The formula is: CS = K (HN – (H%)(TN)).

To understand the formula, take a moment to get familiar with the letters.

CS stands for child support. This is the total of child support for one child. If there is more than one child, there are instructions for multiplying that number.

K is the amount of the combined income of both parents that must be devoted to child support. K is based on another formula that involves how much each parent earns and how much time the higher-earning parent spends with the child. 

HN stands for high-net. This is the higher-earning parents’ net monthly disposable income.

H% is the approximate percentage or average that a high-earner parent spends with the child compared with the other parent.

TN is the combined number of both parents’ monthly disposable income. (Cal.Fam. Code § 4055 (2022).)

Calculating for Multiple Children in California

The law provides specific multipliers for more than one child. It is not the same as multiplying by the number of children. 

Instead, the number ranges, such as the support amount for two children, would be multiplying the amount by 1.6; for three children, by 2, and so on. The online calculator includes the current numbers and provides for up to 10 children. (Cal. Fam. Code § 4055(b)(4) (2022).)

Guidelines and Variable Factors in California Child Support

Child support guidelines provide for add-ons; some are mandatory, and some which are left up to the judge’s discretion.

Judges must order additional child support when there are child care expenses that are necessary, such as to keep a job or gain employment. Additional support must also be provided to pay for a child’s reasonable uninsured health care expenses. 

Judges have discretion and may order extra support for expenses such as a child’s special needs, including educational needs, and travel expenses for visitation. (Cal.Fam. Code § 4062 (2022).

Speak to a Caring California Divorce Attorney

If you and your ex-spouse are working out child support, the Law Offices of David M. Lederman is here to help. 

If you have any questions about child support in Antioch, Moraga, and across Contra Costa, Alameda, and Solano Counties, please get in touch. We are happy to talk with you. Call 925-522-8889 or send an email to set up a consultation. We are happy to discuss child custody, support, or other divorce-related issues in California.

Contact The Law Offices of David M. Lederman for Help Navigating Family Law Issues 

Divorce and family law issues can be complex and stressful, which is why having strong representation is important. It is crucial to contact an experienced family law firm at the first sign of a family law dispute. The sooner we start working on your case, the sooner you can move on with your life. Call 925-522-8889 or send us a message to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.