How child support is calculated in California

California Family Code Section 4055 sets forth child support guidelines that the court and the state's Department of Child Support Services must follow. The law also provides a mathematical formula for calculating child support amounts. The most important elements of the formula are the incomes of the parents, how much time they are responsible for their children and the number of kids involved.

The incomes of the parents are their average incomes from all sources after taxes and other specified deductions. This includes sources such as certain disability payments, interest from savings and investments, self-employment, unemployment benefits, and workers' compensation. Rather than actual income, the court may also consider how much a parent could earn.

Following the formula, the court has to allow for deductions from the parents' incomes. Some of these include other child and spousal support that is being paid, health insurance, retirement contributions, union dues and taxes. Other deductions that a judge may allow include extraordinary health costs, job-related costs, basic living expenses and uninsured catastrophic losses.

The child support formula also takes the amount of time that each parent is responsible for the children into account. The more time that the payer is responsible for them, the less that the individual has to pay in support. This is because taking care of the children is considered supporting them. However, the contributions are not retroactive to before the support petition was filed or served. Past-due payments can only be collected based on previously ordered support.

The California Department of Child Support Services provides a guideline calculator for parents who are going through a divorce and want to estimate what their payments could be. Although the calculator takes them through the formula by having them fill out a form, some parents might be unsure about some of the answers. These parents could ask their respective divorce attorneys for help with the estimate.

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