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Child Support

How Child Support Is Calculated In California?

Child support is a crucial aspect of family law, designed to ensure the well-being of children when their parents separate or divorce. In California, child support calculations follow a structured guideline. Understanding how child support is calculated in the state is essential for both parents involved in such cases. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of child support calculations in California, including the factors, formulas, and special considerations.

Applying California’s Child Support Guideline

California employs a complex formula to determine child support. In essence, the greater the income disparity between parents and the less time the higher-earning parent spends with the children, the more child support that parent owes. This guideline is applied in various cases, including divorces, cases involving unmarried parents, dissolution of domestic partnerships, and requests to modify existing support orders.

Gathering Information For The
Child Support Calculation

Determining Gross & Net Income

Before calculating child support, certain information must be gathered, including each parent’s gross income and net disposable income. Gross income encompasses various sources like wages, business income, pensions, investments, and more. Net disposable income is derived by deducting taxes, mandatory payroll deductions, and other allowable expenses.

Imputing Income

In some cases, income may be imputed to parents who intentionally lower their income to evade child support responsibilities. Earning capacity, based on factors like assets, job skills, and employment barriers, is considered when imputing income.

child support statistic
child support statistic

The Guideline Formula

Understanding the Formula

The child support formula in California is expressed as CS = K (HN – (H%)(TN)), where CS is the child support amount, K is the combined total income to be allocated to child support, HN is the higher-earning parent’s net monthly disposable income, H% represents the time spent by the higher-earning parent with the child, and TN is the combined total net monthly disposable income of both parents.

Applying the Formula for Multiple Children

For multiple children, the guideline provides specific multipliers. For instance, for two children, the support amount is multiplied by 1.6, and similar multipliers are provided for three, four, or more children.

When A Parent Who Earns Less
Must Pay Child Support

Addressing Income Disparities

California’s guideline typically results in the higher-earning parent paying child support. However, in cases where the formula yields a negative amount, the lower-earning parent may be required to pay child support to the higher-earning parent.

Child Support Add-Ons
Under The California Guideline

Additional Expenses

In addition to basic child support, parents may be obligated to contribute to specific expenses. These include childcare costs related to employment or education, uninsured health care expenses, expenses for special needs, and travel costs for visitation.

Allocation of Add-On Expenses

Generally, parents contribute equally to add-on expenses. However, a judge may adjust the allocation based on their respective incomes and circumstances.

When Child Support May Be Different
Than The Guideline Amount

Deviation from the Guideline

California law allows for deviations from the guideline amount when it’s deemed unjust or inappropriate. Valid reasons for deviation include mutual agreement, extraordinarily high income, unequal contributions to the child’s needs, differences in housing costs, deferred home sales, special needs, and multiple legal parents.

Can Parents Agree On
A Child Support Amount?

Negotiating Child Support

Parents often agree on child support amounts, either through a marital settlement agreement or independently. Such agreements require court approval and must be in the child’s best interest, understood by both parents, freely entered into, and not related to public assistance.

How Long Does Child Support
Last In California?

Duration of Child Support

In California, child support generally ends when the child turns 18. Exceptions include support for full-time high school students up to age 19 and agreements for support beyond age 18, such as college expenses.

How To Request A Change In Child Support

Modifying Child Support

Child support orders can be modified when there is a significant change in circumstances, affecting income, timeshare, or other factors. Local child support agencies and legal professionals can assist in the modification process.


Navigating child support calculations in California is a complex task, but understanding the guidelines, factors, and potential deviations can help parents make informed decisions. Child support is ultimately about ensuring the well-being of children during challenging family transitions, and being well-informed is the first step toward achieving this goal. For personalized guidance and legal support, consult with a family law attorney.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced California family law attorneys takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

By: MFL Team

Posted September 12, 2023

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