A lot of times, parents can just agree on an amount for child support. But when a party won’t pay or the parents can’t agree on how much, a court can step in and make an order. Courts calculate child support using a formula known as the Statewide Uniform Guideline. (See California Family Code sections 4050 et seq.) The formula is fairly complex. (If you really want to review the formula, it can be found at California Family Code section 4055 here.)
Basically, the child support guideline considers the income of each party, the amount of time each parent spends caring for the child and certain deductions such as health insurance premiums, mandatory retirement payments or job expenses. The formula also considers the taxes each party pays.
Most lawyers and judges use special software to calculate the amount of California guideline child support. If the Court decides the amount of support, the judge has to follow the guideline to the penny – unless she can show a really good reason to choose a different number. People can agree to a non-guideline order if they wish, but they have to let the court know in their agreement that they know the guideline and are choosing a non-guideline order anyway.
The California Department of Child Support Services has an online application for calculating the amount of guideline child support. However, our experience is that the number is often inaccurate. It’s always smart to see an attorney to really know what the amount should be. But the link to the online calculator is here if you are curious.
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