How CA Courts Calculate Child Support

May 10, 2023
By Alternative Divorce Solutions

Child support cases can have a significant financial impact on parents. As a result, it’s not uncommon for child support cases to quickly become combative.

Understanding how courts calculate child support can help you pursue a child support judgment that works for you financially and ensure that your child lives a good life. To that end, we’re covering how exactly California family law courts calculate child support, and what you can do to pursue the right support arrangement for your family.

What Is the Purpose of Child Support?

When courts calculate child support, they have a relatively simple goal in mind: Ensure the child(ren) in question can maintain the quality of life post-divorce that they enjoyed while the parents were still married.

Typically, the noncustodial parent (the parent who either houses the children a minority of the time or has visitation rights) acts as the child support payor.

How Do California Courts Calculate Child Support?

California courts actually use a dedicated child support calculator to determine child support.

You can access the official California child support calculator by clicking this link.

California courts take the following factors into account when calculating child support:

  • Each parent’s gross income. Gross income includes any income (salary, commissions, tips, benefits, etc.) before taxes or other expenses are subtracted.
  • The timeshare arrangement. How much time the child spends living with each parent affects the amount of child support they owe. For example, a noncustodial parent who houses their child 49% of the time may pay less child support than a noncustodial parent who only has visitation rights or houses the child 30% of the time.
  • Tax deductions the parents claim (such as head of household tax breaks for the custodial parent).
  • Mandatory payroll deductions (health insurance, union dues, etc.). In conjunction with tax deductions, calculating mandatory payroll deductions helps courts determine how much disposable income each parent actually has.
  • Childcare costs. If either parent spends money on childcare (due to conflicting work schedules, for example), that gets taken into account when calculating child custody.

If you visit the California child support calculator we linked above, you’ll see various fields where you can plug in this information.

Can California Courts Deviate From the Calculator?

Yes. Courts actually have a significant degree of flexibility when it comes to determining child support. Additional factors that can cause a court to deviate from traditional child support guidelines include:

  • The presence of a high-net-worth parent. A high-net-worth custodial parent may need less help in the form of child support. Conversely, a high-net-worth noncustodial parent may be able to pay more child support than is typical. Courts may adjust child support amounts up or down in cases where one parent has an extraordinarily high income, based on the quality of life that was established for the child while the parents were married.
  • Whether the child has special needs. If the child has a medical condition that requires extra care, the court may raise the amount of child support to ensure the child receives the care they need.
  • The parents have a virtually equal joint-custody arrangement. Sometimes, parents try and have a virtually equal custody arrangement, even going so far as to switch off as the custodial parent every other year. In these cases, the court may eliminate child support requirements entirely since each parent pays the same amount towards raising the child.

If you’re engaged in a child support dispute, you need an experienced attorney at your side. Our lawyers at Alternative Divorce Solutions can help you find the best arrangement for your child(ren).

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at 949-368-2121.


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