Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

What is Considered When Deciding Child Support?

California family courts always consider the best interests of a child as the top priority in determining child support and custody cases. A child support order demands one parent pay money to the other parent to meet the needs of the children from the marriage. California law sets specific guidelines when it comes to determining the amount of child support one parent must pay to the other in order to ensure that children are well provided for. The guidelines consider the income of both parents, the number of children they share, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children.

How The Courts Calculate Income When Deciding on Child Support Amounts

Each parent’s total gross income forms the basis of what the courts consider when deciding how much money one parent must pay the other for child support. Gross income in these cases includes the following:

  • All income from sources such as wages, salary, commissions, tips, bonuses, dividends, rental property income, royalties, pensions, annuities, trust income, disability payments, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, social security, and spousal support from a former spouse unrelated to the case.
  • Income from a business or self-employment

Public assistance is not considered as income in child support cases, nor is child support received from another party.

Next, the court determines net income by deducting federal and state taxes, any required union dues, health care premiums, and significant necessary job expenses. Then the court considers any other circumstances such as providing for children from another relationship or extraordinary medical costs for an injury, illness, or disability.

How Does Shared Parenting Time Affect Child Support?

The courts may carefully consider the amount of time each parent spends with the children, not as a way to reward or punish them, but as part of calculating each parent’s financial contributions to the shared raising of children including the incidental daily expenditures involved in normal care. The court considers which parent has primary responsibility for the children based on which parent transports children back and forth from school, picks them up when they’re sick, attends most school functions, and pays for education costs.

Child Support Calculation in Court

Once the court considers all of the relevant information, they use a complicated mathematical formula to determine which parent must pay child support to the other and how much they must pay. Typically, the court relies on a computer program that determines each parent’s contribution to the whole monetary amount the family requires to raise their children. The computer’s calculation reliably determines the support amount one parent must pay the other but the courts have some discretion when arriving at the final amount.

Reasons a Court Might Adjust the Calculated Child Support Amount

While the majority of child support orders are based on the calculated amount, there are some circumstances in which the court might adjust the amount up or down. Some examples include the following:

  • One parent has a very high income and the calculated amount is much more than the other parent requires to support the children comfortably
  • One parent doesn’t appropriately contribute to the children’s financial needs considering the amount of time they spend with the children
  • One parent’s housing costs are much lower than that of the other
  • A child has significant medical needs and expenditures

Finally, in some cases, both parents may make their own agreement for child support payments and present it to the court for approval. In this case, both parents must sign documents clearly stating that they understand their rights and were not forced into an agreement. A judge will still consider whether or not the agreement appropriately meets the needs of the children.