How is Child Support Determined in California?

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange county divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsChild support is ordered by the judge granting one partner the right to receive money from the other.  The partner who has more custodial time of the child(ren) usually seeks child support. However, child support laws differ from state to state so the divorcing parties need to ask their attorney about what the laws are in their state. If you live in California, then you need to have some understanding of the law.

Child Support Laws in California

Judges have to follow specific guidelines when deciding how much child support one party has to pay. They consider these factors when deciding on the amount payable:

  • Gross income of each parent
  • Number of kids
  • Percentage of time each parent spends with the kids
  • Where one party is paying mortgage interest and property taxes on a property
  • The medical insurance premiums paid each month and by whom
  • Whether one party is in a union and pays union dues and mandatory retirement each month

Courts use a computer program, such as Dissomaster or Xspouse, which are based on the California formula for child support to calculate monthly child support payments.

Determining Income

Each partner provides the court with their gross income, which the court uses to determine the gross annual income and divides it by 12 to get the monthly amount.  For your knowledge, gross income can consist of:

  • W-2 income (salary and bonuses/commissions)
  • Rental income
  • Interest
  • Pensions
  • Social Security benefits
  • Disability Insurance benefits
  • Workers Compensation benefits
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits
  • Investment income
  • Trust income
  • Royalties
  • Dividends
  • Income from Owned Business(es)

What Actions does the Court Take if the Partner is Unemployed?

Some people may quit their job to show the court that they are unable to provide the ordered child support payments. If this scenario comes to the court’s attention, it will consider the amount the partner was earning prior to quitting their job and otherwise is able to earn and calculate child support using that. Before ordering that, the unemployed partner will have to provide the court with proof stating that there are available jobs that he/she is qualified to apply.

Determining Timeshare

The court looks at what the regular weekly custodial schedule is, along with the annual holiday and vacation schedule to determine the percentage of custodial timeshare for each parent.  The most accurate way to determine such percentages is to break down each party’s custodial time into hours and then divide by the number of hours in one year (8,760).

You should always consult with an experienced divorce mediator or attorney to fully understand what child support you can expect to pay or receive.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”