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How is Child Support Determined in California?

Because there’s no federal guideline for child support, each state uses its own rubric to calculate an appropriate amount of support. Here in California, determining child support is actually very complex and takes into account several aspects of both the child and each parent’s life.

Calculating Child Support in California

When we say “calculate” child support, we mean it. California uses the equation CS = K (HN - (H%) (TN)) to determine child support.

Essentially the formula takes into account several aspects of your life and uses that to determine child support. Typically, courts will look at the following:

  • Each parent's gross income. Child support is based on much more than just the “payer’s” income. It also looks at how much the custodial parent (“payee”) takes home.
  • How much time the child spends with each parent. Technically, the equation uses the percentage of time a child spends with each parent. Courts will look at where the child primarily lives and how often they spend time with their other parent.
  • Income tax deductions that the parents can claim. Mortgage interests, child tax credits, and write-offs are also all considered.
  • Mandatory payroll deductions. This would include things such as health insurance, pension or 401k contributions, and union dues.
  • Child care costs incurred by either parent. If a child requires daycare or other wellness services, that cost will also be considered.

Generally speaking, income amount and how much time each parent spends with their child will be the two greatest factors that determine child support. However, there are a few times when a judge will suggest deviating from the amount determined by the above formula. For example, cases in which one parent comes from extreme wealth or the child requires extensive medical care.

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